“In Him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” ~ John 1:4-5
Each hour of sunlight is precious in December and as the days get shorter we seem to treasure those hours we are able to walk in the light. We eagerly await the advent of the longer days that begin after the winter solstice. It is during these darkest days on the calendar that we celebrate the solemn arrival of the Lord’s incarnation. Simply, a cold winter night provides the perfect backdrop for the arrival of the Light of the World. Nightfall in Bethlehem will be the canvas in which Christ paints the light of His love upon a world clothed in darkness. Soon, the King of Kings will hold court in a manger, clothed in rags surrounded by shepherds and wise men; His arrival like the dawn of a new day is filled with fresh hope.
The imminent messiah’s arrival brings hope to us and generation after generation of God’s chosen people but what amounts to over 2000 years of waiting and anguish for the descendants of Abraham occurs to us twenty-first-century readers in about 200 pages. The power of the earthshakingly hopeful arrival of Jesus to us can be lost in catchy Christmas tunes and a comfortable familiarity with the nativity narrative. Nonetheless, the liturgical season of Advent is all about hope, the hope of our salvation.
The hope of salvation gives us purpose. Having faith without hope is pointless. It would be like playing a Super Bowl and declaring it a tie. If we have no purpose for living a life of faith, why live it? The hope of the beatific vision is the answer to that question. Hope is a virtue that cannot be fully possessed in this life because while we are residents of earth we cannot be residents of heaven. Hope isn’t a gift that one can cash in immediately; the virtue takes time to percolate. Hope requires patience, perseverance, and an aim. Our Jewish ancestors anticipated the messiah’s arrival for over 2000 years; their hope was marked by countless periods of unfaithfulness, longsuffering, and persecution. Despite their journey being long and weary, they lived with confidence that God would deliver on His promises and honor His covenant despite their lack of faithfulness and understanding. The faithful Jews, who don’t recognize the divinity of Christ, still await the messiah’s advent with hopeful hearts. For those of you keeping score at home, that is over 4000 years of waiting and they are still hoping for a savior (as Catholics we pray that they will come to come to recognize Jesus Christ as the messiah).
Hope and instant gratification are polar opposites and the world makes every effort to distract us from placing our hope in God by cluttering our lives with earthly treasures. In today’s society, it is easy to put our hope in worldly prestige, power, and riches - all will leave us empty, abandoned, and lost. To hope in Christ will fill, sustain and ransom us from death. No this kind of gift can’t be sent with Amazon Prime free two-day shipping to our doorsteps, rather we have to fix our hope and our eyes upon the Bethlehem Star and cross the desert like the Magi with a singular purpose and goal in mind.
Therefore, this Advent season is a great time to ask ourselves if we have focused our hope properly. Do we fully place our hope in God and trust that He is the giver of all good gifts? Are we preoccupied with things that will only bring us temporal happiness? Do we hope to one day reach heaven? Do we bring hope to the hopeless by intentional discipleship? If you haven’t pondered these questions in some time, I encourage you to do so and you might just find yourselves surprised by hope; a hope that has you longing for heaven with a joyful zeal for the King of Kings.