Category Archives: hope

the most wonderful

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I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas music. And I’m definitely not a purist when it comes to when one is allowed to listen. I’ve been known to listen to Christmas music all during the season of Advent. I’ve been known to even begin listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving (I just told my students recently it was because there were no good turkey songs). I can even tell that I am truly getting into the spirit of the season when I bust out the Carpenter’s Christmas album. For me it truly is the most wonderful time of the year…and yet for some. Well they struggle with this season more than any other. Often times issues of grief or family drama or financial stress become even more prevalent during holiday seasons. For some this season even becomes the least wonderful time of the year. In a season that is meant to be marked by joy, peace, love, and hope, some find themselves struggling to find these very things in the midst of all the other issues that become more transparent as the holidays take hold.

And on some level I think it all hinges on that last aspect of the Advent practice…hope. The season of Advent, for those who aren’t aware, begins this Sunday and marks the beginning of the church year. Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and it is both a celebration of the initial coming of Christ and an anticipation of His return. And yet, we so often struggle with finding hope in the midst of this season. Many find themselves placing their hopes in things like the economy, politicians, national defense, etc. and as they often discover; this is no place for hope. When it comes to Advent, our hope takes on an incredible shape. Hear these words from the prophet Isaiah, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” – Isaiah 2:4 The Advent hope of Christ return almost seems too wonderful when we read it in the context of our current situation, but this is what true hope should look like.

In a world of shopping malls, black Friday sales, twitter feuds, international diplomatic escalation, racial unrest, cancer, and the like we struggle to take comfort in the story that Advent ushers in. Sometimes it is too much to find ourselves marveling at the story of a young Jewish mother giving birth to a son in the midst of a small town in Judea. Sometimes we struggle to find hope in the shepherd’s vision or the Magi’s quest or the angel’s songs. These stories are too wonderful and too far removed from our present situation for us to take hold of hope in the midst of a competing narrative. Perhaps what is needed is for us to look forward to the coming Advent that will take hold of the broken systems of this world and redeem them. The hope of Isaiah the prophet becomes realized in the words of John the apostle in that concluding hope of scripture. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 May we come to find ourselves caught up in THIS wonderful season and hopeful promise as we anticipate the Advent of Christ once again.

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The season of Advent is upon us…which is weird because it really seems like the season of Christmas is upon us. (Before you disregard everything I am about to write let me just say I am a huge fan of Christmas and this is not at all meant to pit one against the other as that would be absolutely ridiculous) But what I mean to say by Christmas being upon us is all of society around seems to be obsessed with the acquisition of goods to “bless” those around us and measure our blessings all in the Spirit of the birth of Jesus…or at least the arrival of Santa. I mean, I love all of the fun child-hood things of Christmas, the magic of the season, the joy of Christmas morning, etc., but I am not sure as Christians the aforementioned economical surge is the best measure of how to commemorate the season known to us as Advent.

Advent, for those of you not familiar with this specific Christian tradition, is the beginning season of the Christian liturgical calendar. It is measured by the four Sundays that immediately precede Christmas and is intended to be a marker of the time of anticipation and waiting that would usher in the arrival of Jesus. Things that typically characterize Advent are quite, candles and a building sense of anticipation all culminating in the celebration that is Christmas which then becomes a twelve day celebration of the arrival of Jesus (so that’s where that song came from). But with the advent (pun intended) of our joyous fix that surrounds the shopping of the season we lose the true intention and the building anticipation that is meant to characterize this season.

I think about the original Advent. The world was chaotic and the people that Jesus was coming to were oppressed and disenfranchised. They were the poor, the oppressed and those longing for a savior. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul puts it this way, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Under the law is perhaps a politically correct way of saying under the boot of the Roman empire. And I love that phrase “time had fully come”. There is a measurement to the arrival of Christ and it was just at the right time. In fact…it was the only time. The people Christ came to were desperate, they had no other hope. They had no other way.

And so I look at us in today’s world. Secured by our own hands and what we have earned and what we can give. We find joy in gifts and parties and food and often to excess (I don’t think there is anything inherently evil in the aforementioned, but maybe sometimes when it is to excess and that is where we find our hope). And then I think about those desperate times that Jesus stepped into and the hope that was ushered in that first Christmas. Is our hope placed in this arrival or are we in no need of hope because we don’t know what the desperation of Advent looks like? Is there a way for us in our day and age to really grasp what Advent is meant to be? My hope is that we find a way to truly hope during this season for The Kingdom that is ushered in through the arrival of the Christ Child and that we find ourselves desperate…truly desperate for God’s Kingdom come. So desperate that we find no other way and no other hope.


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