The Hope of Advent

Tonight we lit the first Advent candle. Different churches have different themes for their candles (and each Advent Sunday), but often today's theme is hope. In the biblical narrative, the world is waiting, hoping for the Messiah (Anointed One) to come and bring salvation to a people in distress and oppression. Today, we wait for the Christ (Anointed One) to return and bring peace, justice and restoration to a fallen world.

As we sat in church tonight, we sat amidst ambiguities. We participated in a moment of corporate quiet and active waiting. In passing the peace we took the hands of the person beside us and bowed to them, honoring them as well as acknowledging the Christ in them (St. Benedict exhorts us to see Christ in all people). As we blessed the bread and the cup, we acknowledged Christ's presence with us. And yet we wait for His return. Just as God's Kingdom is here now, but also not yet, so it is with Christ. He is with us, but we also await His return.

It is within these ambiguities that we catch a glimpse of hope. We wait, remembering Christ's first coming as we look forward to his second. There is hope knowing that as Israel waited for hundreds of years, the Messiah did come, so we can be assured of His promise to return. We acknowledge that Jesus is present with us when we gather in His name (as well as when we acknowledge the God-made image of the person before us); this assures us of the hope of His return.

Advent is like a nice walk on a winter's day. The rest of the world is zooming along on the interstate going from crowded shopping mall to crowded box store. But you intentionally decide to bundle up in your warm winter gear and go out into the snow-covered woods. You are enveloped in peacefulness as the sunshine glimmers on the snow and the only sounds are of the wilderness around you--a rustle of a cardinal's wings, a soft thud of snow dropping off a branch, the crunch of snow beneath your feet. It is quiet and calm, pure and barren, docile and wild. You are chilled, but the sunshine on your exposed skin gives a hint of warmth. You walk, soaking in the solitude while hoping to catch a reddish glimpse of an elusive fox or a royal cardinal. You notice how the snow has changed the familiarness of the landscape. Much is hidden. With so much less daylight and being indoors so much more, it feels good to be outside and move your body. And at the end of the walk you know the warmth of a fireplace and a mug of hot cocoa awaits.

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