Hope from Anticipation

Growing up Lutheran I spent a lot of my youth lighting candles. Acolyte duties were mandatory but I didn’t realize at the time how lasting the love for candles and how soothing the warmth of their light can be in dark Swedish November. I am in an especially spirited holiday mood this year. I want a Chirstmas tree. I want wrapped presents. I want hot apple cider and ham. I want family and friends and warmth.

What I think will be a new tradition for me will be more appreciation for advent. I remember the stress of acolyte duties during advent season remembering which candles to light, which ones not to, and in the proper order. I have fallen in love with the advent candles for your home. White ceramic holders filled with reindeer moss, renlav (really what reindeer eat).

It is a weekly reminder that Christmas is nearing.

From this anticipation arises hope of what is yet to come.

My friend Meg shared an article from Relevant Magazine ‘Why should we care about advent?’

I wanted to share my favorite excerpt from it. It really explains exactly how I feel this time of year.

I am beginning to care more about advent.

Advent is about anticipating the birth of Christ. It’s about longing, desire, that which is yet to come. That which isn’t here yet. And so we wait, expectantly. Together. With an ache. Because all is not right. Something is missing.

Why does Advent mean so much to me?

Because cynicism is the new religion of our world. Whatever it is, this religion teaches that it isn’t as good as it seems. It will let you down. It will betray you.

That institution? That church? That politician? That authority figure? They’ll all let you down.

Whatever you do, don’t get your hopes up. Whatever you think it is, whatever it appears to be, it will burn you, just give it time.

Advent confronts this corrosion of the heart with the insistence that God has not abandoned the world, hope is real and something is coming.

Advent charges into the temple of cynicism with a whip of hope, overturning the tables of despair, driving out the priests of that jaded cult, announcing there’s a new day and it’s not like the one that came before it.

“The not yet will be worth it,” Advent whispers in the dark.

Old man Simeon stands in the temple, holding the Christ child, rejoicing that now he can die because what he’d been waiting for actually arrived.

And so each December (though Advent starts the last Sunday of November this year), we enter into a season of waiting, expecting, longing. Spirit meets us in the ache.

We ask God to enter into the deepest places of cynicism, bitterness and hardness where we have stopped believing that tomorrow can be better than today.

We open up. We soften up. We turn our hearts in the direction of that day. That day when the baby cries His first cry and we, surrounded by shepherds and angels and everybody in between, celebrate that sound in time that brings our Spirits what we’ve been longing for.

+Rob Bell is the pastor of Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is also the author of Drops Like Stars,Sex God and Velvet Elvis (all Zondervan) , and is the featured speaker in the NOOMA short film series. Connect with him on Twitter @realrobbell.

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