Advent, Season of Hope
Advent has been devoured by the commercial side of Christmas. This is a pity because the spirituality of Advent is most needed today. It is appropriate that we celebrate Advent in winter because the spiritual message of Advent brings hope to our experiences of the winter of the spirit. It is a winter for the Church with falling numbers, ageing congregations and hostile media. It is winter in a society when murders are almost a daily occurrence, the bonds of marriage unravel, drug and alcohol addiction, life in the womb is denied and many are sleeping rough. Winter is dark and cold as the light of faith disappears and religious fervour has gone cold.
Advent celebrates the coming of Christ. It might seem odd that Advent begins, not with preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but his coming for us at the end of life’s journey. The Church’s liturgy sees time as a circle in which the line ends exactly where it began. Life is a journey from God our Creator back to God our final destiny. When this large circle of life is forgotten, life becomes a directionless succession of unconnected moments. The digital watch represents the mind of many today as it shows no past or future but only the dancing digit of the present moment. Without roots in the past or vision of the future, one lives only for the present moment. And if this collapses, as in a broken relationship, everything falls apart.
“Stay awake”. In today’s Gospel we are told to stay awake and to stand ready. There are three great virtues that keep our eyes open to God. Faith lets us know God: hope draws courage from God: and love opens our heart to God. We hear a lot about faith and love, but we rarely hear about hope. Faith, hope and love can be seen as three sisters on a journey, with hope as the little one in the middle. Darkness falls and faith begins to falter. The atmosphere gets cold and love finds it hard to keep going. But hope emerges as the one who keeps faith going through darkness and enables love to overcome coldness.
Hope is the great virtue of Advent. Readings from Isaiah fill us with images of hope. Mary looks forward in excited expectation of the birth of her child. John the Baptist tells us that someone-is-coming.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.