Last Sunday, my boys and I and the rest of my family huddled around the kitchen table to light the first candle on the first day of Advent. Where normally my father, as the wonderful patriarch he is, would take charge of the ceremonial side of celebration, this time it was me who held the match and explained about the prophecy candle and the hope it represents in a way that I can only pray tiny 7- and 2-year-old minds could comprehend.
Like most evangelical Christians, I did not grow up celebrating Advent. However, hearing the beautiful words Pastor Jacob spoke about prophecy and hope last Advent season left me transfixed and determined to join in with other Christian brothers and sisters around the world in taking the time to reflect on what Jesus’ coming has meant to us in this time. However, last year for me it felt very forced. I mostly fumbled my way through it in a way that felt anything but natural and celebratory. Google, my normally all-wise and trusted advisor, kind of let me down in my search to find out exactly how one should go about celebrating Advent. I went out of that season determined that, with a year to prepare, next time would be better.
As this year’s first Sunday of Advent loomed nearer, I realized that I still had no idea what I was doing. I went to Google again, but with much the same results as last year. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t find any information, but rather the overwhelming amount and at times contradictory information available. How was I supposed to know what was correct? What was wrong? In desperation, I turned away from Google to my next go-to source for answers: actual humans. I knew from her posts that a Catholic friend of mine observed Advent with her family and I was sure she could help me figure the whole thing out. She provided a long list of things she and her family do, as well as things other people do. But what finally pulled the truth into focus for me was the last of her advice: it’s not really so much about the specific things you’re doing. It’s really just about taking the time to celebrate.
That one little statement was freeing for me. In this season, we can remember that it’s not about doing things perfectly, but more about remembering the hope we have been provided. And that’s how hope itself works. It reminds us to pause, forget the millions of things that we might be doing right or wrong, and focus on the One who has provided everything for us. This is what Israelites would have done. In all their searching and longing to see this promised Messiah, they would have stopped the noise and fear of daily living and intently listened instead to the prophecies that said, “Something better is on the horizon.” During this week, remember the great Hope we have received, a Hope planned and foretold from the beginning of time. A Hope that wrapped itself in the trappings of a human body and lived among us. Let us set aside all of our uncertainties, and focus on our Hope.

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