At this point in the year, could you do with some joy? How about a sense of hope for the future? Perhaps peace is what you seek most of all.
People count down the days to Christmas and the holidays every year, but I feel like people are particularly worn down this year as they hold out for the end. We get glimmers of hope in the news about our borders, our living circumstances, our workplaces, and our health, and then things quickly take a turn for the worse. It is draining to face ongoing problems that don’t seem to have a solution and that are too big for us to fix. We don’t just need a break; we need a breakthrough.
Amidst this backdrop, we have the season of hope, love, joy and peace – the season of Advent. This is the time we anticipate Christ’s coming at Christmas, when he dispelled the darkness of his own people and brought hope to a nation that was desperate for change. Jesus’ message, however, was for all people, for he came to give us all hope, love, joy and peace – gifts that come from faith in him, as he draws us into the life he has prepared for us.
Jesus paints a different picture for what will bring us lasting hope, love, joy and peace. These things don’t come from external circumstances, which fluctuate and change all the time. Jesus calls us to look to him for everything, so that he may be our constant and unchanging source of life and contentment.
In Advent, we light a candle each week to prepare for Christmas, each one representing hope, love, joy or peace. The light of the candles reminds us that God fulfilled his promises to save the world in some of the bleakest circumstances. Our reflections in our Chapel services this term have relived these, focusing on God’s incredible power to bring hope, love, joy and peace when the situation for God’s people appeared disastrous. In Advent, we remember that God did this in the past, and he will do it again in the future, when he comes in glory at the end of time to bring the fullness of joy and dispel all darkness and despair for ever. I can’t wait.
So crank up the carols. Sing some songs of hope and joy and relish the freedom that comes from knowing you don’t have to sort out the world's problems yourself – and you can’t anyway. Hand it over to the One who came to bring hope, love, joy and peace that will last. And have a lovely break, when you get one.