A long time ago, Bernard of Clairvaux wrote to remind believers of the three comings (Latin: advent) of Jesus. Jesus arrived in the flesh at Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time. In the 13th-16th centuries, the church found the tradition of celebrating his arrival in Bethlehem and anticipating his future return during this season particularly helpful.
I find this season helpful, too. As materialism and secularization continue to increase in our world, choosing to remind myself of what it means that Jesus came in the flesh becomes even more important. Society wants me to focus on gifts. Advent reminds me to think about the giver.
In the Advent tradition, there are four gifts of Jesus that are celebrated in the four weeks leading up to Christmas: hope, peace, joy, and love. Without Jesus, these words would be hollow. With him, they explode with life and power.
Because of Jesus, we have hope. Hope is very different than wish. Wish is just a desire. Hope is joyful expectation.
Before Jesus, people lived “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) Now, we “rejoice in hope” (Romans 12:12) because of our union with Christ.
In a world without Jesus, there is no hope. We are slaves to our sins and desires. We fight to be one of the strong who survive. We claw to maximize our short time on this planet. Suffering is calamity and pain knows no end.
But in a world with hope, the blackest of Fridays becomes good Friday. The cemetery is no longer a death sentence; it’s just an interruption. With Jesus, we never suffer alone. We have the promise of something better on the horizon. The advent of Jesus changes our lives by giving us hope. May we live in that hope each day!