I know that it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but this coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent, like Lent, is a time of waiting. Developing after Lent, in many ways it was designed to parallel the Lenten discipline.
In most Protestant denominations the rediscovery of both Lent and Advent are fairly recent additions, with observances only showing up in the past fifty years or so. I often find it funny how many older members remark on how they never really talked about Advent at all growing up, at least that is if they were raised in a Protestant home. This does not mean they were “missing” something; you can be a faithful Christian without ever celebrating or observing any special day. However, the modern church has re-embraced Advent and Lent and many other types of observances as tools of faith.
Sometimes as people of faith there are so many disciplines and messages that go along with our faith journey that we are unable to focus on some parts that are really important, like the themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. So we celebrate the season spending time each week in preparation for Christmas, focusing on what each of these concepts mean and how they shape our understanding of Christ, as well as getting a glimpse of both the first coming of Christ at his birth and understanding how we are prepared for His second coming in the last days.
This week our focus is hope. Much of the time when we think of hope we think of things that we hope for like the right toy, getting into a good college, finding the right job, that the new boss will understand you, that your kids are successful, that you’re able to retire comfortably, that when your day comes it is peaceful. All of these are valid hopes, but like so many things they are temporal and really are different based on where we are in our life’s journey.
As with everything associated with Advent, the challenge is to get us thinking beyond the temporal and into issues that are forever, or to move us from thinking about things that are earthen bound to things that are divine. As you can see in the verse that associated with the week of hope, Jeremiah 33:14-16, the hope that is exemplified is a transcendent hope. This hope points to something far greater than any individual want; it is a hope that we cannot realize because it is true uncorrupted righteousness.
Since this hope is something that no human could begin to explain or even grasp, it takes faith. Think of it this way: if you can place your hope in something that you can only get a glimpse of, then you can live out that hope through your kindness, care, and understanding. You can model what it means to live for things greater than yourself and you can find strength in the fact that what is now is not what will always be because what God has planned for you is more incredible than you could ever imagine.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen