Advent is a time for preparation and anticipation. The word advent is derived from the Latin adventus which translates to meaning coming or arrival. In Greek we will witness the term parousia utilized. This term is often utilized to reference the second coming of Christ. Essentially, advent is a season on which we as disciples of Jesus Christ are called to ready ourselves for coming of the Living God to dwell amongst the children of Man.
The season of advent is divided into four weeks. Each being represented by four different candles. Today marks the first of these weeks. Today we light a candle in representation of hope. Hope that is derived from the knowledge that we worship a God that is true to their promises. Hope that is sustained by the God who provide manna to those in the wilderness. Hope that is built upon a foundation that never fails. To understand this hope of the return of Christ we need to first look at the hope that preceded the birth of Christ.
“Fear not” and “be not afraid” are two statements that are found repeatedly in the Holy Scriptures. These promptings are often given to people before God reveals to them great trials or blessing within their lives. On the eve of the meridian of time the angel Gabriel appeared to the blessed Mother Mary and delivered some reality altering news.
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was very perplexed at this statement and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.’”
Luke 1:26-33 NASB
In this encounter we witness a young woman named Mary approached by a messenger of God being told to not be afraid. After being told this news she was informed that she was about to be given the undertaking of bearing Immanuel, or God with us, into this world. Parenthood in and of itself can be a trial so it is difficult to even begin to fathom amount of fear and uncertainty one would possess in being charged with bringing the messiah into this world.
During this time, we are also informed that Mary’s betrothed, Joseph, was visited by the same Heavenly messenger and told to disregard the social norms of the day and to not be afraid. Before this dream Joseph had every intention of quietly setting aside Mary in divorce due to what he felt the religious standards of the day dictated. He was told to have the courage to know that what he was doing was in alignment with the will of God even though it was not in alignment with the religious standards of the time. For this son of David to do this he risked bringing dishonor upon himself and his royal bloodline.
In these two instances we find these two individuals that were chosen by God being told to “not be afraid” for the Lord would sustain them. It was their hope in the promises of their God that aided them in completing the tasks that were set before them. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have a lot to learn from their examples.
In a reality in which we are constantly bombarded by the negativity that can be found through the improper use of social media, the division and strife created to cause us to fear the “other”, and the tribalism that we have allowed to pervade every instance of “modern life” it is easy for us to lose sight of the hope that we need. We live in a world in which the adversary wants us to build walls instead of bridges; a world in which we are encouraged to focus on the me instead of the Kingdom of God. With such darkness it is easy to become discouraged and to lose sight due the darkness and confusion of the static. It is easy to become fearful. To counter this reality, we must remember the call of the angelic messengers to fear not. We are called to persevere in our hope and to be sustained by the God of all humanity. On this, the first Sunday of Advent we are to answer the call to have hope.