Advent is a time of waiting with hope, for something wonderful. Think of a time when you were waiting for someone to arrive home, someone dear to you. They have been away for a long time. There is the feeling of anticipation, longing and excitement, just like you see in the arrivals hall of an airport. You are looking at each person as they appear, waiting for your loved one. That is what Advent is meant to be; a time of hopeful waiting. The first candle we light, symbolizes hope. The hope of knowing something wonderful is going to happen. Your long-absent son/daughter, husband or wife, is about to come through the door and you can’t wait to see them.
What exactly are we waiting for that is so hopeful? Generally, we focus on the birth of Christ and that certainly is a big part of it, but it is just one part of it. Christmas and Easter are two halves of the same thing and they cannot be separated. What we are waiting for is a whole package that consists of God coming among us, into the messiness of our world, to share in our human nature, to suffer with us and to re-open the possibility of eternal life, through his death and resurrection. Just the last part of that alone, is mind-blowing. Without this whole event we could not have happiness when we die. That is why Advent is such a hopeful time, because we are waiting for this whole event to begin, the event that finishes in eternal happiness.
The world that Jesus came into, was very similar to ours. He was born to a couple who were away from home, because of a census. He was born into a country which was occupied by a foreign power and who were known for being particularly brutal. The Romans regularly crucified many people just to show who was in charge. Can you imagine living in the fear of those kind of soldiers. Right after his birth, they had to flee to Egypt because of a death threat. They became refugees fleeing from violence, just like we are seeing in so many countries at this time. His world was full of religious hypocrisy, just like ours and yet he wasn’t afraid to come into this world. All of that is showing us that God is with us in the chaos of our world.
Many Christians have a misunderstanding of what our faith is about. I regularly hear people in confession and outside of confession, express their fear of the sins of their past. Maybe they won’t be able to go to heaven when they die. Maybe they won’t be good enough. We joke about it all the time, saying that when we arrive at the pearly gates Peter will look over our life, to see if we are good enough. That is the complete opposite of the teaching of Christianity. What our faith teaches us is that we are not good enough for heaven by our own strength. We can never be good enough for God, by our own strength. But the whole point of our faith is that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, that has now been made possible for us. God now offers us forgiveness and eternal life if we choose to accept it. God has already done for us what we cannot do ourselves and that is why the message of Christianity is so amazing. Christmas is the beginning of that whole event; Christ taking on human flesh, living among us in our chaotic world and ultimately allowing himself to be sacrificed for us. Eternal life now awaits us. All we have to do is say ask God’s mercy for our sins and say, ‘Yes, I believe and I accept all that God is offering me.’ Knowing this we need never live in fear of our past mistakes again. What God has done for us is what will bring us eternal happiness. That is why Advent is such a hopeful time.
The Angel said to the shepherds: do not be afraid.
I bring you news of great joy.
Today in the town of David
a Saviour has been born for you;
He is Christ the Lord.