So what has happened to HOPE? In my world as a preacher/teacher, the preparation and study that forms the basis for preaching during the Advent and Christmas seasons has long begun. It’s curious that so much of what I read wants us to jump (almost artificially) into the “JOY of the ‘holiday’ season” (which for too many has very little to do with the birth of Jesus and the celebration of the Incarnation) but seems to overlook the four weeks that liturgically precede the Christmas celebrations.
“Hope” is the forgotten virtue. Hope is supposed to mark the weeks anticipating Christmas. But hope is so difficult to consider. With our political divides usually deteriorating into hostility and outright enmity, with so many victims of senseless violence that only highlights the evil contained (as the poets would say) in the human heart, with the growing realization that too many younger women and teens have had to tolerate the misconduct of older sexual predators for far too long, and even with our world itself seemingly unleashing catastrophic fury on a humanity that has played (false) god with its environment, there seems to be little to be hopeful about.
And yet, believers in Jesus are called to “live in hope.” Hope is not merely a faith in God. Hope is the staunch trust that God is truly present among us in spite of our capacity for harming ourselves and others. Hope reminds us that all time is in our God’s hands (to use the biblical phrase). To live into HOPE means that while I may not see the entire picture or the end result, I am committed to and convinced that ultimately God will make all things right. I don’t KNOW how this will happen, and I may not live to see this happen. But I know it will. I trust our God who loved humanity (with all its flaws). The feast of the Nativity brings “Joy to the World” but the weeks beforehand – the time of Advent – brings Hope that this joy is not an illusion. Hope is our conviction that anticipates the Lord’s final victory over the powers of darkness. So when it is most dark for you, don’t be afraid to hope!
– Fr. Joe