Advent Reflections Week One: Hope

“The Advent season is a magnifier” Father Scott

Over the past couple of years; I have lost a baby and brought a baby home as the fairy lights shone and the carols have been sung. Advent has magnified both my grief and my joy.

The images of a cradle filled with the infant Jesus was unspeakably painful when my heart was broken and bruised; but I found comfort as I waited in my darkness that light would come. I didn’t know what the light would look like, but as Jesus descended into our darkness I allowed myself to imagine that there would be light on the way.

And a year later, I was captivated by the joy and wonder of cradling my own, longed for baby boy. I was and am, all too aware that this is not how everyone’s story of longing ends; but I began to see that my hope lay not in the baby I held close – but the One that Mary held.

Timothy Keller writes in his book “On Birth”

“Mary… as Jesus’ mother, will experience both the profoundest joy at seeing the greatness of her son and the deepest grief as she watches his arrest, torture and death.”

Mary’s story is one of hope and despair over and again. The fear at the sight of the angel, the wonder at the task before her, the joy at her acceptance to carry the Son of God, the wonder at the things she pondered in her heart, the confusion as she’s told about the sword which will pierce her own heart – over and again until his death and what she felt may be the end of all hope. Jesus’ whole life cycled between hope and despair just as ours often do – and herein lies our hope – because we are never alone in our despair, and it will not have the last word.

The advent season speaks to both hope and despair. It speaks to our despair because we are a people waiting in the dark; and perhaps that is particularly true of this year.

It speaks to our hope because we are promised that this is not the end – that dawn will break and end even the darkest of nights.

Isaiah 9:2-4 declares:

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.”

Isaiah wasn’t writing from an ivory tower in which nothing troubled him – he’s writing from exile among a people waiting to return to their promised land. He is writing in hope about the dawn in the midst of the darkness – and don’t we do the same today? The difference is that we walk in Jesus’ footprints, that He has gone before us.

We cannot deny that this Advent, this Christmas will look different – but our hope remains the same – because we can bring all that hurts, all our hopes to rest in Jesus Christ.

Advent magnifies our hope, not by denying or dismissing our despair, but because Jesus reaches in and experiences it alongside us, our Emmanuel.

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