Maranatha, meaning both Come Lord Jesus and Lord Jesus has Come, is what we proclaim as we enter into Advent. As I posted a couple weeks ago, Advent has a new relavence to me this year, which I am grateful for. Yet, as tangible as waiting for a baby was just 2 weeks ago, it’s hard to evoke a genuine anticipatory feeling during Advent. Most of us, I’d say, aren’t so good at waiting for anything, much less waiting for something or someone we don’t see and won’t see when the awaited time has arrived!
Perhaps, then, the liturgical tradition has something to offer us. It seems to me that Advent wasn’t started by people who thought they’d see Jesus at the end of the four weeks, so maybe the way they set up the themes for the season can help us actually develop a real feeling of waiting.
What does Hope tell us about waiting? In an obvious sense, hope describes feelings toward something that has not yet arrived. One way to think of this word could be as a command. We are being told, “Hope!” The command comes not necessarily from God himself, but from the early apostles and the church who eagerly awaited the return of Jesus. We need to be told to hope, remember that we actually have something to hope for. Hope is also a reminder of all the Bible says about hope- we have been called to hope (Ephesians), we are to have hope unlike those who are not in Christ, etc. The label “hope” calls to mind the foundation of Christianity, a hope for what is to come.
I would say we need a good reminder what we hope for. Hoping for Jesus is too abstract. Here’s some things I hope for:
-An end to drugs and violence in our neighborhoods.
-No more war
-Food for everyone
-No more disease
-No more divorce
It helps me to name them because just like praying the prayer of St. Francis, when I hope for these things and pray for them, God calls me to work towards them. I can’t say, “I hope there is peace in our neighborhood one day” unless I am willing to be an instrument of peace (which of course relates to next week too). St. Francis’ prayer, “Where there is despair, [let me sow] hope” also instructs us how to view this week of Advent.
But lastly, we must hope for the Hope. Hope is both a command and a nominative- We are told to hope for the One who is our Hope. As vague as that may sound, our hope is incomplete without Jesus. Jesus’ coming gives a fullness and depth to our hope. His birth meant that hope had meaning and reason. His life demonstrates what it means to offer hope to the world. And his death shows us how who exactly we’re hoping in-the crucified, humiliated Messiah. As we look forward to his coming, our hope is informed by the knowledge that he has already come. We know what we’re hoping for-he said he will return in the same way he left. Hope needs to know that Christ has already come.
I’m not sure these thoughts are totally coherent, but to me they help illuminate why I should actually strive to be in anticipation. This is a week of hope.
One last image to leave you with. On our wall in the living room we have a painting/drawing. In it is a stick figure bunny rabbit of sorts (not exactly a bunny rabbit, but close enough) shown in different positions of waiting. He looks like he’s hemming and hawing, kicking the ground with his foot, putting his hands in pockets, etc. There’s like 4 or 5 poses of him in a row (it sort of looks like 5 of the same person standing in a line). In the sky above the last person is a rain cloud that has opened up and rain is pouring out. The last pose shows his head tilted back towards the rain and his hands thrown up in the air. You have to imagine it, but I imagine a look of pure ecstasy on his face, and a total letting go in a moment of joy. The drawing just says, “Just wait, the rain will come.” I think that is Advent in a simple drawing.
I hope it snows this week.
(Just wait, the [snow] will come.)