“A thrill of HOPE, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
Do a quick Google search for “Advent Calendar” and you’ll find over 3 million results—for the gourmet chocolate lover, for the wine connoisseur, for the beauty trendsetter, for the traditional-at-heart, for the children in your life, for that boozy friend—an Advent calendar for everyone on your list.
Having grown up in a non-liturgical church tradition, this is what I knew about Advent: there was a Christmas tree calendar that had doors for each day, December 1 – 25, with candy inside. It was a countdown to Santa Claus and had little, if anything, to do with the biblical Christmas story. I was an adult with nearly-grown children before I began to learn about and celebrate Advent. This yearly celebration has changed the way I worship. “Let every heart prepare him room” has become my personal prayer for this season.
This is the first week of Advent. The definition of Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.” Advent has to do with waiting, with being “pregnant with expectation.” This is waiting with purpose, waiting with action. It’s “nesting”—preparing my heart to be Christ’s home. Advent worship is a journey through the biblical narrative, the story of God putting his family back together. It’s a time to focus on what Christ’s coming brings to us: hope, peace, love, joy.
“Come, Lord Jesus” is the anthem of Advent. It’s waiting, between the now and the not-yet; it’s the meantime, which can often be a mean time. Into this uncertainty, into this darkness, into our world arrives Jesus, our HOPE.
How can we see the evil around us and still have HOPE? In modern-day America, we have political division, sexual harassment scandals (#MeToo), religious conflict (#ChurchToo), relationship battles. It was similar in the time and place of Jesus’s birth—hideous leaders, rampant sexism, oppressive religion. Jürgen Moltmann, German theologian, has the right idea concerning HOPE in the midst of darkness:
“Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering and yet believes in the future.”
The ancient Jews had been expecting the promised deliverer, a Messiah, since their origins. They were a people who had been in exile, had been decimated by war and enslaved. Their expectation of the Messiah gave them HOPE in the tough times.
My expectation of “Come, Lord Jesus” gives me HOPE in the tough times. Advent is not only about preparing for Jesus’s birth; it’s about preparing for Jesus’s reign, for God’s Kingdom come. Worship in Advent is learning to bring God’s kingdom to earth now while we wait for Shalom—the wholeness that God always meant for us. It’s offering HOPE to those in darkness—the oppressed, the poor, the slaves, the lonely, the least, the battered, the burdened.
Welsh novelist Raymond Williams reminds us: “It is … in making hope practical, rather than despair convincing, that the ways to peace can be entered.” This is what I see as my mission (and yours, too, should you choose to accept it): to live in such a way that my life becomes a voice of HOPE. Where there is despair, where there is hopelessness, where there is discouragement, there can always be HOPE.
I love that HOPE is first in the Advent season. Without HOPE, there can be no change, no revolution. Without HOPE, one isn’t looking for or expecting something new and will likely miss the opportunity when it comes. HOPE is foundational to our faith; it’s a confident expectation; a trust that something new, something else, something better is heading our way.
Christianity, at its core, is about HOPE—HOPE for a better today, HOPE for a brighter tomorrow, HOPE for a beautiful eternity. This is what Jesus’s arrival and God’s Kingdom bring. Celebrate with me, won’t you? And go ahead and buy that boozy friend “The 25 Whiskeys of Christmas” Advent calendar (maybe she’ll share, right?). While you’re at it, give yourself the gift of HOPE this season—only then can you share with those around you.
How do you—or do you—celebrate Advent? How will you be a voice of HOPE in your world? Share your comments below to encourage us to HOPE this season!
Photo via Unsplash.
About Janene Cates Putman
Janene Cates Putman is a literary publicist and marketing coach, activist, writer, and speaker. She and her Hot Husband live in the mountains of east Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @jdixie0105.