Advent is about preparation and waiting. It’s a funny season – we look forward to Christmas, when we celebrate the coming of God to earth as a man, and we anticipate the second coming, when all will be set right in the world, tears will be wiped dry and all sickness and pain will cease.
But while we look back and look ahead, we’re stuck in that funny inbetween place. Stuck in the tension between what has already given us hope and what we hope for.
Hope is a tricky feeling to manage. Put your hope in the wrong places, the wrong people, and you risk disappointment and worse still, heartbreak. Hope for too long without any signs of hope delivering and you get tired and disillusioned. Hope for health in the face of terrible sickness and it seems cruel. But give up hope, and there’s no real life in you. A life without hope isn’t worth living, and so we take the risk to be hopeful.
I’ve thought a lot about the risk of hope the past few months. When you’ve been disappointed, or your hopes haven’t led you where you thought they would, to bend down and pick up hope and carry it forward again is a mighty big risk. Every time you choose to hope, you put something of yourself on the line, you walk that tightrope and hope this time you’re not going to fall off.
God has come to rescue man – this is the Christmas story. Yet look around and you see a lot that looks like it needs to be rescued still – banks, battered women, benefit claimers, homeless sleepers, asylum seekers, the unemployed, the overworked, the brokenhearted, you, me, and everyone you pass on the street. We all need something.
But there is hope, so this is the tension we live with.
Advent is the season where we take note of hope – that what has already been has given us much hope, and that there is much to hope for still.