Thought of the week
This Sunday is Advent Sunday which is the very first day of the Church’s Year. The season of Advent extends over the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a season of expectation and preparation as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ.
Church decorations are simple and sparse, and purple is the traditional colour used. Advent falls at the darkest time of the year, and the natural symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work throughout Advent and Christmas. It is a time for reflection in darkness, for renewal of hope and for looking forward towards a new beginning. Advent candles are lit during our services to express this idea of hope emerging from the darkness of our world as we await the birth of our saviour.
But within the symbolism of Advent there is an older idea: the second coming of Christ as the judge of the world, when people of faith looked forward in eager anticipation to the coming of His kingdom. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.
There is much that deserves quiet reflection in this period leading up to Christmas. So it is not an ideal time to be focusing our thoughts and time on sending cards, present buying and Christmas festivities!
I think that at the heart of our reflection during this Advent must be the darkness of our world at this time. So much is wrong: so much wickedness, so much abuse and exploitation of people and our planet, so much waste and destruction. And the consequences are to be found everywhere we look: in the state of our planet and its climate; in the escalating effects of this on the lives of millions of people and the loss of biodiversity; in disharmony, friction and warfare in many areas of the world; and in the poverty and hardship that so many people are facing.
So dare we look for signs of hope in this world of darkness as we approach Christmas? It is not easy. But when other people have difficulty finding reasons to hope, our source of hope is in God, who simply loves us and is always there for us.
He offers us a vision of a new world - new possibilities ahead, but rooted in our present relationship with Him and with His Son, Jesus Christ, who is about to enter our world.
And as St Paul says: "Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Far from being a simple wish for the future with no guarantee that it will come about, Christian hope lies in the presence of divine love, the Holy Spirit, a current of life that carries us across the ocean of uncertainty.
Christian hope does not mean living in the clouds, dreaming of a better life, for God doesn’t expect us to sit down and wait passively for his promises to be fulfilled, as if by magic. This hope is a source of energy for us to live differently, not according to the values of a society based on the thirst for possession and competition. It leads us to discover seeds of a new world already present today and a sense of where we're going and what we're called to be.