The first week of Advent is traditionally about hope. Talking about hope, right now, feels like a bit of a challenge.
The cost of living crisis is biting. Russia continues its war in Ukraine. Violence against Israel in October was outrageous. The ongoing retribution visited on the people of Gaza is obscene. The COP 28 climate conference is taking place in the United Arab Emirates, a key supplier of fossil fuel. Political relationships are increasingly toxic. Refugees are crossing continents. People around us, and across the world, are discouraged. Hope, if it can be found at all, is in short supply right now.
Advent is about looking forward. It is about living in anticipation of the arrival of something. If we feel that we’re short of hope we need to lift our sights and remind ourselves what it is that we are supposed to be looking forward to. It’s not about looking forward to Christmas food or drink. It’s not about the parties, the presents, the bright lights – these might make us feel a bit better for a day, but they have little to do with the true meaning of Christmas. As Christians we are looking forward to a gift which is infinitely more important than any of that. We are celebrating the fulfilment of prophecy in the birth of the Christ child, the Messiah. And we are looking forward to the fulfilment of prophecy in the return of the Messiah and the restoration of the Kingdom of God. It’s about encouragement. It’s about hope.
Take Jesus out of the picture and it’s not surprising everyone feels discouraged. Put Jesus in the picture and there’s one major difference. Hope.
Of course we’re praying for peace across the world and for the restoration of hope in our communities. But the true hope for us all in this first week of Advent is Jesus.