On The First Sunday of Advent: HOPE

by Dawn W

Despite the fact that November seemed to not last long enough to be considered an actual month, we have reached its end. Thanksgiving has come and gone and people are finally allowed to listen to Christmas music without the risk of facing my wrath/annoyance at rushing ahead. It is the last Sunday in November which means one very important thing.

It is the first Sunday of Advent.

I’ve learned over the years that there are many people in my life who don’t observe Advent or really have any idea what in the world it might be. So first, a primer.

Advent, in simplest terms; is anticipation. The season of Advent waits on two things. We remember the waiting of the people for a Messiah and we acknowledge our own waiting for His return. Each of the four weeks has a theme, and the first Sunday is all about hope.

The Oxford English Dictionary (delight of my heart) defines hope as ” a feeling of expectation and desire; a feeling of trust (archaic).” A feeling of expectation. I understand desire. Wanting is the easy part. Expecting to get what I desire is something else entirely. I usually expect to get the opposite of what I desire. Seems safer that way.

The people of Israel had a pretty good grasp on wanting but not expecting. They’d been waiting on a Messiah for approximately ALL THE YEARS. All the Prophets spoke of one being brought up to rescue the people. He was going to bring light to the darkness, hope to the hopeless. He would set things to rights. Things were bad. Things were dark. There was 400 years of slavery in Egypt. There was the destruction of the Temple and the diaspora at the hands of the Babylonians. Read Lamentations. Read Psalms. People were stressed and unhappy and longed for a Messiah that had been hundreds of year in the making and yet had never come.

It is no wonder that they often got tired of waiting. I don’t think I would have lasted as long as they did. But, God spoke through the prophets and encouraged the nation. Isaiah tells of God wanting to comfort His people; reassuring them that someone is coming. “Behold, the Lord God will come with might…’ (Isaiah 40:10). Despite generations worth of waiting, God wanted the Israelites to still have hope. He wanted not only their desire, but their expectation. They needed to assume that things would be okay in the end, even if that seemed silly or irrational.

Well over two thousand years later and I face God with desire but without expectation. I see around me darkness. I outline all the reasons that hope is lost; that it will never work. God reminds me that when the world was darkest, He sent a light. Not a king or a warrior, but a baby. His solutions may not look like I expect them to, but He will always provide one.

As the liturgical church begins its new year, as you look out your window and see more darkness than daylight, as the world seems to crush you with overwhelming despair; remember that a star pointed the way to true Light in the darkness and that we should anticipate, we should desire with expectation, we should HOPE that light is returning to our dark world.