Holding Hope

Posted on: December 3, 2018, by :

It’s 8.30 am on the second last day of Spring, just one day away from Summer, and the temperature is 12 deg, the sky is dark and gloomy, and the drizzle is falling.  Almost an apocalyptic feel in the air!  One could be forgiven for thinking that something is wrong!  This is not the way summer is meant to be!

It may be an appropriate way to lead into Advent, however.  Advent is that period of four weeks leading up to Christmas in which we are invited to step aside from the frenetic busyness of our lives and spend just a moment or two reflecting on that which is coming.  And on this first Sunday of Advent the gospel readings present us with apocalyptic images of the end of the world, suggesting that what is coming may not be all we hope for, hinting that something is amiss, that the world is somehow out of kilter.

Perhaps the language of the gospel may sometimes seem overstated, and the images a little over-dramatic, but in reality, many people experience life, at least some of the time, to be a little ‘out of kilter’, do they not?  And sometimes the world does seem to be more gloomy than bright, more despair then hope.  That’s life—it is a mix of ups and downs, of joys and struggles.  Just like the weather!

And in the midst of this reality, this mix of experiences, comes the First Sunday in Advent with its proclamation of Hope!

At the heart of this Advent period of watching and waiting is the invitation to look beneath the surface, beyond the superficial signs of our age, and see the evidence of God alive and active in our midst!  In the gospel story, that sign comes in the unexpected and unlikely form of a baby.  In our time it comes in equally unexpected and unlikely ways, but the evidence is there for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.  Advent invites us to lift our eyes beyond the horizon and, seeing the signs of God’s activity, dare to live with courage not fear, assurance not anxiety, hope not despair.

Christian hope is founded on the conviction that God is not yet finished with the world, that God is still at work in people and in creation.  Christian hope refuses to accept what is as all there shall be.  It boldly imagines the coming of a day when children do not die in detention centres, when nations are not terrorised, when cities are not filled with lonely people, and when peace is more than just the delicate balance of world superpowers. and works for things to be other than they are.

Advent provides the opportunity for us, as people of faith, to affirm our commitment to making this vision of a new world a reality in our neighbourhoods – to live as people of hope not despair, to bring light not darkness.  Because, as Patricia Livingstone has observed, Hope is not the naïve expectation that all will go smoothly, that desolation will remain a stranger.  Hope is the conviction that God will always be with us in whatever happens.

David Brooker

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