Welcome to a new year! Advent is not just the Christian preparation for Christmas—it is the beginning of a new year in the church. The theme for the first Sunday of Advent is hope. These last few weeks before the birth of Christ, as Mary and Joseph made their difficult and long journey to Bethlehem for the census, they could not yet imagine all that waited ahead for them. They too had to wait for God to reveal power and salvation in the world. They too had to face hardships, fear, and doubt. They too were looking for signs of hope.
We think our situations, world events, and sufferings are unique and devastating. But our Israelite and Christian ancestors knew suffering too. When Israel was destroyed, and all hope seemed lost, God still had a plan to bring hope and salvation to the world. Jesus’ birth was the coming of the long-awaited Christ, and many people wanted him to solve everything by force—to destroy evil empires and set the world right. But there is no return to the garden of Eden, and God’s plan for salvation was not meant for one nation at one time; it was for all people for all time.
Most of us would prefer to hide from our problems, deny them, or let others work out solutions. But Jesus calls us to respond differently. We are called to stand together in a community of believers who are willing to pray, willing to follow Jesus, and willing to fight for hope. We are called to stand up and fight the injustices we see in our world, to stand up and love the unlovable, to stand up and heal brokenness, to stand up and shine light into darkness, to stand up and be the hope our world needs. In the days ahead, during Advent Season, don’t just wait for Christ to be born. Stand up to proclaim and be the hope Christ brings to the world. During this new year of faith, instead of thinking about what Jesus can do for you, try to be more like Jesus and hand out healing, forgiveness, love, and hope. You have everything you need to stand as a beacon of hope (with Jesus at your side) during this Advent Season.