Daring to Hope: Advent 2021
Sunday, November 28 to Friday, December 24
by Rev. Ed Montano
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two years, there is no escaping the reality of living through a pandemic. We all have lived through the uncertainty of not knowing what it was, how bad it was going to get, and how it was going to affect us personally. The last 21 months have shown that this is a most serious and dangerous reality that has drastically changed our lives. We have seen and heard, and some of us have experienced, the sad reality of the effects of COVID-19. As a hospital chaplain, I have been at the bedside of patients dying from Covid. It always is sad and unfair.
We have been given some hope as progress continues to be made with vaccination and precaution protocols, and the gradual reopening of various parts of the country (and the world). There have been ups and downs in this journey, and I imagine there will be some more before this pandemic is finally over. So, we are left with a hope that can be fragile and somewhat uncertain about a post-pandemic world.
And yet, we dare to hope. We dare to hope in something that is going to be better for all of us, something that is coming and will bring us more freedoms, more opportunities to be with our loved ones, a hope that we can, again, realize our full potential.
The life of the church is also marked with ups and downs that allow us to contemplate where we have been, where we are, and hope for where we are going.
I have the feeling that most people don’t know what Advent is. People are familiar with Christmas, whichever version of it they may understand and/or celebrate. Christmas is always accompanied by joyous celebrations, both at church and at home with family and friends.
Before a major celebration, there is usually some preparation to be done. So too, in preparation for Christmas. The season of Advent is the time to prepare in joyful anticipation for what is to come — the birth of the Christ child, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. And what does birth mean? It means that our lives are turned towards something beautiful and wonderful, a better way of living, a new reality where the world becomes a much better place covered by the love of God.
Advent is so much more than a time to put out the Christmas decorations and lights, it’s more than getting advent calendars and eating the chocolate.
I heard one fellow clergy member envision it as “…a time to boost and nurture our spiritual self by stocking up on vitamins H, P, L, and J (Hope, Peace, Love and Joy). We take vitamins and exercise for our physical health, but often neglect taking care of our spiritual self.” If we don’t take care of our spiritual self, if we don’t prepare, we cannot enjoy the great celebration that is coming. If our spirit is not healthy enough, we cannot fully celebrate.
Advent gives us that time we need to prepare, to get healthy and strong spiritually. Let us take advantage of Advent, and let’s take the time we need for ourselves, our families, and our communities. Let us live these four weeks in the joyful hope, and loving expectation of the birth of a life that is full and blessed as the promise God made to us in the miracle of the incarnate Word, Jesus the Christ.