As I’ve been saying each week, Advent is a journey. We began by striving to hold hope – even when hopelessness can so easily pervade our lives and our world. In the midst of death and sickness and war and divorce and all kinds of evil that have invaded our world, we cling to hope as we anticipate the coming of the hope of the world. We anticipate God’s redemptive goodness being birthed once again into our world of chaos and pain. Then, as we begin to trust that God is doing a new thing here – a new creation – we begin to gain a sense of peace. Despite the lack of peace all around us, God’s faithful presence and active involvement in the world endows us with a sense of assurance that could only come from the Prince of Peace. And then, when the peace of Christ has washed over us, cleansing us from the tyranny of violence, confusion, and chaos so prevalent in our world, we emerge from this baptism with a profound sense of joy – a joy that strikingly transcends the trite, superficial happiness the world so often pedals.
And finally, this journey brings us to the category of love. As we learn to struggle through this hope-peace-joy process, the journey of Advent, we emerge not just with a personal joy, but also with the capacity to love. We have felt and seen the presence, faithfulness, and love of God – even in the worst of circumstances – and this propels us forward to be present, faithful, and loving for the world. As Jesus says in John 13:34, “Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.” As we experience the love of God, we too are invited into the task of love. We are invited to help others find hope, peace, joy, and love in the midst of their despair, restlessness, depression, and bitterness.
So as this Advent season wanes and Christmas day draws near, may we not just anticipate the joyous arrival of the cute, cuddly infant in a manger. But may we also invite the God of love into our lives. May we allow ourselves to be shaped and transformed by a God that loves us enough to come near, enter into the mire and muck, and redeem the world from within. And may we be challenged to embody this same love for our world – to partner with God in creating a new heaven and a new earth – a wholly redeemed world.