Advent and Hope

by Brian Colmery
The Christmas season is an odd time. You probably couldn’t pay a lot of businesses to play Christian music in July. But come December, you’ll hear Silent Night in Starbucks and find a nativity scene in the window at Vons. A relatively secular city seems to relax a bit and doesn’t mind humming the tune to Away in the Manger — but only in December. December 26th, it’s back to business as usual.

Advent gives us a clue as to why it suddenly becomes okay to sing about Jesus. Christmas songs and nativity scenes are all about hope. And everyone can connect with hope.

Hope in the First Advent

When we celebrate Advent, we are joining ourselves with humans that lived thousands of years ago. The people of Israel knew God promised them a messiah who would triumph over Satan, sin, and death. Each chapter in their history revealed more about what this messiah would be like: He would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15), He would be a better prophet than Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), He would be a better king than David (Isaiah 9:6-7), He would bring a better covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Living in a broken world, the people were weary. They dealt daily with their own sin, and suffered at the hands of others. The thought of God himself coming to crush Satan, rule justly over their world, and remove the sin from their own hearts created a yearning only Jesus could satisfy. Imagine the moment when Simeon got to hold the newly born Jesus in the temple, saying "“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation (Luke 2:29-30).”

During Advent, we remember the longing of God’s people for so many centuries. They put their hope in the promise of God to send Jesus, and trusted in His goodness as they waited for the light of the world to dawn. As the weeks of Advent pass, we feel the need for Jesus. On Christmas morning, we re-experience God keeping his promises.

Hope in the Second Advent

Re-experiencing the joy of God sending Jesus the first time reminds us that we still long for Jesus to come again. We still live in a broken world, and we still get weary. While Jesus has saved us and given us a whole new way of life, there will come a time when He returns to make all things new. God has promised His people that Christ will come a second time, and told us what it will be like: He will bring a new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1), where there will be no more pain because God Himself will wipe away every tear from every eye (Revelation 21:4).

During Advent, we remember that our hope is still to come — and that God is faithful to His promise. As the weeks of Advent pass, we feel our need for Jesus. On Christmas morning, we remember that He really will come back, and that we are forever safe with Him as our King.

The Thrill of Hope

We still live in a broken city, and people in Los Angeles are weary — especially around the holidays. It’s not just the travel and the flurry of family gatherings and turkey dinners. It’s the reality that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecc 3:11) and this world does not match up. The best family gatherings leave a lingering sense of longing for something greater; the worst highlight how broken things really are. And so for everyone, when O Holy Night comes on the radio, they find themselves singing along about the “night of our dear Savior’s birth”:
Long lay the world,
in sin and error pining
Till He appeared,
and the soul felt its worth
The thrill of hope,
this weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks,
a new and glorious morn
The lights, the trees, the festivities, and the carols are all about redirecting our hopes to something greater than this broken world and my broken heart. There is a thrill of hope we find only in the birth of the King of kings, who lay thus in lowly manger. In all our trials, He was born to be our friend. He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger. So the next time you hear Silent Night in Starbucks, remember Advent and behold your King. Experience the thrill of Hope. And let His power and glory evermore proclaim — to your own heart and to the weary travelers around us in Los Angeles.