It’s a dreary, dark, wet day today—not at all how “Christmastime” is supposed to look. Instead of crisp white, the world is covered in drab browns and grays. Instead of gentle flakes quietly falling, the noise of the rain, and even thunder, can be heard throughout my house. This weather feels like an intrusion on our Christmas spirit, but at the same time is bizarrely appropriate. Today is the first day of Advent, a season of waiting, watching, preparing for the arrival of Jesus. And this week’s theme is “Hope.” The weather of our dreary day seems to be a parallel to Jesus’ arrival, which occurred at a time of dismal circumstances. For 400 years, the prophets had been silent. God himself seemed to have abandoned his people. They were living in oppression under the rule of a harsh empire, and their generation didn’t even have a memory of what it was like to not be waiting. They had literally been waiting for centuries, longing for any glimmer of hope the Messiah would certainly bring.
Today’s gospel reading (from The Book of Common Prayer) comes from Matthew 25, where he tells the story of the 10 bridesmaids watching for the bridegroom. With the last sentence, Jesus tells us the point of whole thing: “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.” Advent is not only a time when we enter into the waiting of 2,000+ years ago, it’s a time when we recognize what we’re all still waiting for: the time when Jesus, our Messiah, will come again and put everything in the world right again, for good. Our hope is not just in the salvation that broke through on that starry night in Bethlehem, it is in the coming salvation, once and for all, of the world.
“And he shall wipe away 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.”
I’m finding that I’m coming to the last month of 2016 much like the past several years: weary, drained, and a little sad. I have COUNTLESS things for which to be thankful, and my life is a testimony to God’s abundance, but I find that somehow my expectations for this season—that it be peaceful, magical, happy, and full of quality time with family and friends—often go unmet. Are my hopes for this season too high? Very probably. But I also realize that I’m putting my hopes in the wrong things. I’m putting them in feelings, in ways of spending time, and in circumstances. When our hope is in ANYTHING but Jesus himself, things crumble. We will be crushed with the weight of disappointment.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”
Jesus is truly a thrill of hope for my weary soul. Jesus, the one who says “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus, the one who breaks into the darkness of gloom of our present as the Light of the world.
He is hope.
May we all put our hopes securely in him, as we await his coming.