ADVENT – Season of Hope!
In a world of hopelessness and despair, in a world filled with false hope based on fleeting promises and false gods, true hope often eludes us. Hope is more than an abstract concept concerned with some distant future. Genuine hope must be connected to everyday reality yet grounded in the confident assurance that these things for which we long will come to pass.
How welcome, then, is Advent, with its focus on humanity’s yearning for justice, renewal, healing, liberation, comfort. For centuries the people of God continued to hope despite their suffering from persecution, destruction, and exile; their hopes were fulfilled. The Old Testament readings of the Advent liturgies, revealing God’s wondrous works and steadfast love, give us ample assurance that God loves us as God loved the Israelites. And so we hope; we hold onto the message of Advent; we search for wisdom and courage; we ask for God’s help in our struggles; we rejoice and give thanks when our hopes are realized.
My Catholic faith tradition is counter-cultural during the season of Advent. When the rest of the society is already decorated for Christmas, our churches remain bare. Purple colors decorate our altars and the sole ornamentation is the Advent wreath with its message of hope, peace, joy and love: a sign of light in the darkness. When Christmas carols already resound in other Christian churches, our churches are filled with somber hymns of Advent. We wait for Christmas to celebrate Christmas, exercising a discipline lacking in society, the ability to postpone gratification.
I appreciate the decorations and carols of the season and often give in and don’t wait until Christmas to decorate my home or listen to my favorite Christmas music. I also appreciate the tension between my faith tradition and the secular world we live in. Advent is a time to teach us about how to wait in hopeful anticipation of what God has in store or us.
Over the next four weeks I will be posting reflections that continue the Advent theme of hope. Read them at the beginning of your work day, during a break, or before the end of your day. These reflections can be used during difficult times when hope is often elusive and so needed, and during the abundant times that are the promises and reminders of that for which we hope.
So often, hope involves a change of attitude, a sometimes difficult task when we are mired in trouble and helpless feelings. The vignettes and Scripture selections are reminders that God does work in mysterious ways, that God always loves, and that God keeps promises.
These reflections are meant to help you enter more fully into the spirit of Advent by focusing on the many ways we are called to trust in God and in God’s promises. All of the quotations speak in some way of hope, a hunger of the human spirit. As you read and reflect and pray, my prayer is that they foster in you a true and lasting sense of hope, that they encourage you to hold fast for a moment longer or bring you comfort when you need it.
We wait and we hope!
What are some of your Advent traditions? What are your experiences with waiting and hoping? I would love to hear from you.
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