From The Pastor’s Desk
Advent: A Season of Expectant Hope
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13 NRSV)
Once again, we mark the arrival of Advent. Usually, Advent is my favorite season in the life of the Church, but this year I am finding myself more anxious and longing for light Christmas. My usual excitement about the season of Advent has been muted by the feeling that we have been in one long Advent season already – isolated from family and friends, watching as our political and social contexts spin out of control, waiting for a coronavirus cure, hoping for change. This waiting, this longing, these are things typically associated with Advent. Enough! I am ready for Christmas, aren’t you?
Still, we can no more rush the hands of time than we can slow them down, and so we wait. Advent is the journey we must take if we want to get to Christmas. And maybe this is actually a good thing because no matter how broken or seemingly hopeless our world may feel at times, Advent is full of joyous expectation and longing, and the insistence that God can and does bring forth life where none seems possible.
Advent for the Christian is about expectancy: the Christ-child who was born and the Anointed One who will return. But Advent is also about how we live in the world, how we model our lives after the One who was made flesh and who chose to live, breathe, work, love and move amongst us. This holy season trumpets God’s extravagant love for us and prepares us for the good news that into our beautiful yet wounded world comes Emmanuel, God-with-us, carrying the promise of fresh hope to enliven our hearts and the hearts of others. But this isn’t just any kind of hope, it is an expectant hope that we must learn to live deeply into now and for our future.
Our world today is full of fear of the other, open racism, sexism, and bigotry. There remains a certain ambivalence and denial regarding privilege and power that penetrates all aspects of our institutions and continues to oppress people deemed different. There remains a pandemic that has laid bare gross inequities in our healthcare system and economic structures. What does it mean to have an expectant hope amid such trying times? Hope that is more than a feeling; more than wishful thinking or simply being perpetually optimistic or having a “hopeful” attitude. What does it mean to have hope that is an active form of action and anticipation? Hope that brings change, because as Pastor Jay Y. Kim keenly observes, “Christian hope is not wishful thinking. Christian hope is an expectant leap forward. We take action. We live in motion.”
Pastor Kim notes that in The Message, Eugene Peterson renders the beginning of 1 Peter 1:13 this way: “So roll up your sleeves.” In this sense, Christian hope is about rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. It is a blue-collar sort of hope, making us ready and willing to get our hands dirty, to labor and toil our way toward expectation and promise. As Kim articulates, “This is what Christian hope looks like. It doesn’t ignore fear, anxiety, and doubt; it confronts them. It holds steady, clinging to peace in the midst of chaos. Through life’s many treacherous storms… Christian hope is buoyed by something greater that has happened and something greater that is going to happen again.”
During this time of Advent, a time of light in spite of darkness, our hope needs to take shape in the form of action, be made tangible in one another and caring for each other. So as much as I may long for Christmas, Advent is the season we need to reframe our hope and make us ready for the Christ who is among us and who is coming still. May this be a season of expectant hope for all of us.
With you on the journey,
~ Pastor Kyle
1 Jay Y. Kim, Hope: An Expectant Leap. Online Christianity Today article. Last accessed 11/28/2020 at https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/november/advent-hope-is-expectant-leap.html.