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Advent 2023: HOPE

Dec 1, 2023 | Institution / General

Hope: An Advent Reflection
By Kristin Allaire, Student Writer

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine” – Isaiah 9:2.

Approximately six months ago, my brother and sister-in-law had their first baby. I can remember the expectation and excitement surrounding the birth of my adored little niece. Our eager anticipation to meet the new life developing within my sister-in-law grew along with the baby. Then, one day, the baby arrived! The joy of new life filled our hearts as we marveled at her tiny hands and sweet face. Birth is often filled with hope. As we celebrate Advent each year, we are reminded of the hope of a new life. Not only do we reflect on the birth of our Saviour, but we also celebrate the birth of new life for humanity!

As we prepare to celebrate this Christmas, may our hearts abound in hope! Whatever joys or sorrows you find yourself facing, there is hope that shines brighter than anything in this world. It illuminates the deepest darkness and makes the brightest lights look dim. Where we place our hope will deeply shape our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. It may sound paradoxical or ironic, but even in states of despondency, we put our hope in something. In a world of distractions, it can be all too easy to get swept up in false hopes. Passion, talents, dreams, family, friends – the list can go on and on. The blessings of this life are wonderful things that can bring us joy, yet even the most glorious and good things of this earth cannot be trusted as our source of hope. If we place our hope on the shifting grounds of our circumstances or the lights of this world, we will soon find ourselves in darkness. The brightest lights are only mirrors and mirrors will shatter if we put too much weight on them.

One November morning, I received a knock on my door. I opened it to the man I love more than words can say, on one knee, with a ring in his hands. With tremendous joy, I now get to call him my fiancé. My heart is flooded with eager anticipation and awe of this blessing as we count down the days until our wedding. The glory of God shines through the many seasons that we go through. Awaiting the day of my marriage has reminded me of the hope of eternity we have through Christ! Matthew 25:1-13 holds The Parable of Ten Young Women. Comparable to what we know as bridesmaids, these women played a role in the wedding celebration of a bride and groom. Their job was to keep oil burning in their lamps and be prepared for when the groom arrived. It calls us to be ready for when Jesus returns. As we reflect on the Christmas story of our Saviour’s birth into this world, let us also rejoice in His return! May our hearts be burning bright with the oil of hope this Advent!

“The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps” – Matthew 25:4.

Advent Contemplation
By Nate Wall-Bowering, Assistant Professor of Old Testament

At eight-months old, my son has formed a new habit. Something will catch his eye. Unblinking, he will lunge with hands stretched out, nearly tumbling from my arms into space. Never mind that the thing might be beyond reach. He wants it. That’s Advent for me. Advent is the season of hope, or waiting, or anticipation, or expectation. We say that kind of thing. What I’ve found, though, is that trying to practice hope make me get in touch with longing. How can I wake up that bit of my soul that would lunge headlong toward Jesus who visited us once, visits us still, and will visit us again – but who is beyond my reach? That’s become my Advent question. After years of sleepwalking through December, I now try to sharpen my sense of what I want deeply but lack, and of what the world around me lacks but badly needs. Language helps. Specifically, language that stirs up longing, words able to expose my heart’s raw nerves. That’s why six Advents ago, reading poetry became an Advent go-to. Each day I will read (and try to feel-with) a poem, usually in the morning. The first two years I worked through Malcom Guite’s beginner-friendly Advent collection, Waiting on the Word. Another year, I spent time with Denise Levertov’s poems from The Stream & the Sapphire. Last year, it was W. H. Auden’s amazing For the Time Being. The same applies to Scripture reading. During Advent, I visit the Song of Songs. (Yes, the suite of love poetry tucked away in the Old Testament). The book dramatizes the back-and-forth of two nameless lovers who miss each other, and who pine to be together. Christians and Jews always treated Song of Songs as prayer language – as a way of getting in touch with the longing that’s part of loving the Lord your God with all your heart. On good years, doing this helps me sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and mean it.