(the following was adapted from an article by Jim Hawkins on Ministry Matters.)
The season is changing. As many of us are cleaning up from Thanksgiving dinner, shoppers will be looking for bargains in stores that can’t wait for the traditional Black Friday start to the Christmas shopping season. Malls and downtowns around the country are already decked out with holiday decorations. Christmas music proclaiming this the most wonderful time of the year can be heard on public-address systems and radios. Santa Claus is listening to eager children share their wish lists. Holiday-themed movies are in theaters, and Christmas specials are on television.
The church is changing seasons as well. We have now moved on from Ordinary Time. This week is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas. The worship will look different, with an Advent wreath, paraments in purple, and a Chrismon tree. The choir is practicing music for upcoming Christmas worship services. Scripture lessons proclaim God’s promise of a Messiah. The season’s activities convey hope and joy.
Hope and joy in the midst of gloom? Many of us both inside and outside the church still find the economy and the economic outlook gloomy. Many still hunger and lack the basics of life. Too many face the prospect of another Christmas with despair and desperation. How can we speak of hope and joy?
When we look at the world around us, we recognize that although the reign of God has already begun with Jesus’ first coming, that reign is not yet fully realized here on earth. We live in a time of “already” but “not yet.” While we can catch glimpses of the reign of God, there is still much in our world that is not as it should be. During Advent, we remember Jesus’ promise of his future coming, also known as the Second Coming, when the reign of God will come in its fullness.
As we remember that we are living in a time of “already” but “not yet,” we also remember that as we wait for Jesus’ future coming, we do not wait idly. Christians are to live as though the reign of God were already here in its fullness. We are to live by the values of God’s reign. After all, God is our potter. When God molds us, as a potter shapes clay, we are transformed. In short, we can follow Jesus, loving God with all that we are and all that we have and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we live hope-filled lives, we proclaim that hope with our words and our actions. In fact, we may find that one of the ways God brings hope to the world is through us.
Christians are a people of hope, even in a time of widespread despair. We know that no matter how bleak the world around us may seem, God is tearing open the heavens and coming to us. We hope for more than an economic recovery and an end to partisan bickering. Even when the unemployed find work and our political leaders work together, we continue to live in a broken world. The Christian hope is that Jesus Christ was born and will come again—now as well as in the fullness of God’s reign—to transform our individual lives and our world.
Here’s wishing you a hopeful Advent,