Advent has never been a meaningful time for me. I’ve always loved Christmas; music, carols, decorations, the tree, but I’ve never consciously practiced an Advent meditation. I identify more with Jesus’ death that I do with his birth. Birth is about hope and hope is not something I’m used to having.
My early life was fairly hopeless. We learned early on that to expect good is an unreasonable expectation. What is good about constant violence? What is hopeful about living your young life with no end in sight? Where’s the hope in that? I wasn’t even mature enough to know that freedom was years away, but still there nonetheless. Christmas was the one time of year where things lightened up a little. Still, it was not the most joyous of times.
Jesus’ death at the hands of others; now that I can understand. That makes sense to me. Waiting for a baby to be born that will save the world makes no sense. An adult Jesus I can deal with, an infant Jesus is absurd. But I am trying this Advent season to cultivate hope. Because what is a Christian but one who HOPES that what she believes is true and will lead to her salvation? “…therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope” (Acts 2:26).
What can I do this season that will cultivate hope for a Christ-filled future? I can be among people that are hopeful rather than those that cultivate hopelessness. I can refuse to watch politics on TV or listen to talk radio; two prime tools that cultivates hopelessness. I can develop strong hope with my co-workers at the large church I work for. This is itself an atmosphere of hope that I thank God for. All I have to do is envision the work environments of times past and I thank God for the job I have now. I am working for the hope found in the Christian faith daily. I can find the hope first and foremost in my family and the hopeful lives of my children. I can hope and wait for the future with the congregation I call home in my small rural town. They are not perfect, but they are all I have to hope with; people of like minds and hearts. Lastly, I will put my hope in Jesus Christ “…through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom. 5)
Character produces hope. Maybe that’s why there is so little hope in myself and in the world at large. Suffering leads to endurance and endurance produces character. Character produces hope. Well, I’ve suffered. I’ve endured. But my character leaves much to be desired. Maybe this is why hope is so elusive. We learn nothing from our character and our faith fails us. This Advent season, I am going to ask God for faith and hope and work on my character that both may come about.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8).
Best blessings to you this Advent Season!