Waiting in Hope
Historically speaking, that expectation has never ceased to guide the progress of our faith like a torch….We persist in saying that we keep vigil in expectation of the Master. But in reality we should have to admit, if we were sincere, that we no longer expect anything. The flame must be revived at all costs. At all costs we must renew in ourselves the desire and the hope for the great coming. But where are we to look for the source of this rejuvenation? From the perception of a more intimate connection between the victory of Christ and the outcome of the work which our human effort here below is seeking to construct.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Are we a hopeless generation? Have we lost the sense that there is both something desperately wrong with the world and that there is reason to trust that with God it can be made right? Ours is not the hopelessness of desperation, of poverty, and of crushed spirit. No, in our age and in our land it is a hopelessness born of something very different. Ours is a hopelessness born of such affluence and ease that we live largely unaware that we are even in need of redemption. We are so fully immersed in and shaped by our fallen world that we fail even to recognize the true peril of our circumstance. We imagine ourselves safe and secure and we imagine that we have provided for our safe and secure futures too.
Chardin exhorts us to renew the flame of our hope for the great coming. Advent is the great season of the church in which we are given the imperative to “Wake up!” Wake up from our lethargy and lack of concern for others which allows us to compartmentalize our lives and live unaware of their suffering. Wake up from the hubris which fosters a sense of self-sufficiency and which, in the end, leaves us playing the role of our own god. Wake up from the self-righteous illusion that God is somehow for us and against those others we dislike and fear.
Advent hope is hope in the great coming. That is – it is hope in God’s refusal to leave us alone and let us have our own way. It is hope that the one who comes is able to break our hearts of stone and restore in us hearts of flesh. It is hope that, in the end, this will not all depend on us.
This Advent we are invited to once again trade in our self-serving, shallow, and domesticated religion for a wild ride with the One who comes to make all things new; to yield autonomy and accept the yoke of the one whose burden is light; to keep making the connection between our feeble works and the great redemption God is working in the Christ-child. May his weakness unmask the illusion of our power. May his humble beginning call into question the veneer of our affluent pretense. May his gracious and peaceful arrival lead us to put away the hostilities within us that lead to discord and war. May we learn to wait in hope as all our ancestors have for the God who will come be it sooner or later.
God who rips open the heavens and comes down, you have never been content to watch from a clean and righteous distance but have chosen to get in the mess of human experience – to immerse yourself in our troubles, our frailties, and our hopes. In this season where we await your coming again and give thanks for your promise to return, inspire us with zeal to prepare the way, to wake up and get busy doing our part to establish your kingdom on earth as in heaven. In the name of the great Prince of Peace who in the words of the creed “who for us and for our salvation came down.” Amen.