Indeed, all the reading from scripture that are set in the common lectionary for the first Sunday in Advent were designed to bring a sense of hope to the people for whom they were written. We can ask for ourselves what is this hope that these writers are trying to express? and perhaps more basically, for ourselves what is hope? In a world that appears to have lost much of its meaning both politically and from a religious/philosophical point of view one wonders what the future holds? This can of course lead us into despair which looking at the calls of social media and media itself, would be the way that many are thinking. The rise of those who see no reason not to exploit either others or the things of the world for selfish gain leads to a rise in this despairing. Yet at the start of the Christian new year we are given a glimpse of something glorious, something that has meaning for us and should have meaning for our own communities in which we live. Hope is an intangible, a vague glimpse of something to strive for within a world that has dark clouds that stretch from horizon to horizon.
A candle in the distance brings hope to the lost
All hero mythologies are at their most basic stories of mythic hope in the face of despair and hopelessness. We only have to think of Tolkien, Sanderson, Kay, etc and their heroic trilogies for a sense of this. We can of course go back even further to Arthurian style or even Norse mythology to see the same glimmer of hope being pursued by the hero. In the Christian manner we are all heroes within our journey. We are all drawn by the hope that the Christ spark brings that is on the horizon of our future. Hope is not generated from the past, we cannot and should not dwell in the myths of the past seeking for the solution of our present. It is the call from the coming Christ the future that is visioned by Isaiah and found in our walking in the light of God that creates our journey's purpose.
If we allow our past to be our hope then we have failed to see the coming Christ and we dwell only on the incarnation, preparing for an emptiness that has come and gone. Our celebrations are a celebration of what has been and looking to the hope that is generated by Christ's call into the future. If we leave out the hope of what is to come we then spiral into the debauchery that Paul in writing to the Romans (13.13) decries. Indeed if we look at our collective celebrations at Christmas this is what we presume rather than the celebration that comes with a knowledge of the call into the future. The incarnation becomes for us a signpost into a new future, a signpost that is a call from the future into the past. A call that recalls us into a newness that brings us into Christ's present. It is only from seeing that spark of hope in the far distance that enables our ministry in the present and draws us along our faith journey towards the coming Christic presence.