The themes of Advent are very real, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. They address issues that were not only current for the early Christian community but continue to impact us in this century.
For a people who were exiled for 70 years, losing their land, their homes, their temple, and their national leaders, hope of the restoration of these losses and a political leader to defend them against their enemies was a real project. The words of hope offered by the prophet Isaiah were welcome and timely,
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19,) also, a reminder to those who continue to hope in the Lord,
“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Hope had the effect of keeping a dejected and abandoned people alive; hope was motivating and strategic in seeing the fulfilment of God’s promise to God’s people.
Today we welcome the Advent hope. We are God’s covenant people, Christ has come and is coming again, so the hopelessness, fear, and despair we experience, is not final.
What then do we hope for? For the world, our nation, our communities, our church, our families, and ourselves- God is able. Remind yourselves of those promises again.
What is it that you hope for? How does your life reflect it?
Then there is Advent PEACE.
Peace is the desire of everyone. The route we chose to achieve it is sometimes strange, as conflict and war are often selected. How we pray and hope and wish that peace would always be a tangible goal in our lives. How we long for the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah and Micah, that the world would ‘beat their spears into pruning hooks, and study war no more”. (Isa. 2:4; Mic 4:3). Advent reminds us that the Prince of Peace came into our world and is coming back again. That peace must be received as a gift from God. That peace must be the preferred option for all people and a strategy for sustainable development and a safe world.
Where there is no peace, lives are broken, dislocation and distress dominate and abuse and exploitation impair the quality of human life severely. Like the Psalmist declares, God’s covenant people must “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psa. 34:14).
What would you like to change in your mannerism, the way you respond, the way you address someone, that could foster peace during the season and beyond?
And there is also Advent JOY.
God’s people in exile, lost their joy as they endured the torture of uprootedness. You can imagine what some Jamaicans experience when they must resort to a shelter after a hurricane or heavy flooding. When this happens, there is no joy in the inconvenience. Now consider the Israelites in exile for 70 years, not 7 hours or seven days, or 7 weeks! When we have losses, we also tend to lose our joy.
For the exiled Jewish community, they were promised that the redeemed of the Lord would receive joy (Isa. 51:11). That weeping may last for the night (of sorrow, inconvenience, suffering, pain) but joy comes in the morning (Psa. 30:5). From Exile to Joy through the coming of the Messiah. The announcement of his birth was the joy that comes in the morning. He is coming back again and wants his children now and then to nurture joy in our exiles; in our sorrows, in our tribulation. Joy builds resilience and fortitude.
How are you cultivating and nurturing joy in your life?
Finally, Advent speaks of LOVE.
We often say “love came down at Christmas”, and yes indeed that is so. Love is not just a sentimental feeling; it must become a way of life. Jesus lamented when he entered Jerusalem, and realized that His own people were too blinded to see how much they were loved and how they rejected the very one who loved them.
Bob Marley’s song, One Love, was voted by Time magazine as the song of the twentieth Century. It epitomizes the dream, desire of a world torn by conflict, racism, inadequate distribution of scarce resources, exploitation, and hatred. The message to love, is still relevant and essential for the world in which we live and love. Can we see God’s love wrapped up in Jesus, invading, permeating, and transforming a world that is toxic and needs healing?
The old chorus reminds us that,
God’s love is warmer than the warmest sunshine,
Softer than a sigh
God’s love is deeper than the deepest ocean
Wider than the sky
God’s love shines brighter than the
Brightest star that shines every night above
And there is nothing in this world, that can ever change God’s love.
Newer songs reinforce this in speaking of God’s “Reckless Love” and by telling us that we will “never be more loved than, we are right now”
What difference does knowing that you are fully known and conditionally loved by God, make in your life?
How can you become an agent of love during this advent season? May you experience and radiate: unshakeable Hope, unimaginable peace, unalterable joy, and unending love this advent and beyond.