by Bart Day
Expectation is a good thing. In a day and age when our culture so often dreads what awaits us on the nightly news, on a doctor’s examination table or on a tax return, we need hope. That is precisely what Advent offers us. Advent gives us hope: the hope for a Christmas just around the corner. Yes, that includes all of the customary human joys of the season. We love the buying and giving (and even the receiving!) of gifts. We love spending time with family and friends. We love the Christmas parties and the snacks around the house and the songs of the season.
All of that is well and good, and as Christians we should thank our gracious Father of lights for such ordinary pleasures. But Advent gives us a far greater hope, a hope that transcends the joys of our cultural celebration of Christmas. Advent gives us the hope Israel had as she awaited the coming of her Messiah, Jesus Christ. Advent gives us the hope that John the Baptist preached on the banks of the Jordan. Advent gives us the hope Mary received from the archangel Gabriel and bore in her virgin womb. Advent gives us the hope of a King who not only came to us in a dingy stable, but comes to us now in Word and Sacrament and will come again in glory on the Last Day.
We need that hope—boy, do we ever need that hope. Living in a sin-sick, war-torn, racially-conflicted world, we need hope that our gracious Lord will redeem us and all those who believe in Him. We need hope that God makes good on His promises, as He did for Israel. We need hope that Jesus will return for us and bring us to live with Him forever in righteousness, innocence and blessedness. We need that hope, and Advent brings it to us. In the words of that great Advent hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus:”
Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee;
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. — (LSB 338:1)