As we celebrate Advent this year Christians across the world will rekindle and renew their hope. They will again cry with the apostle John, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). They will not only look back and celebrate the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago, they will look forward in anticipation of his coming again.
Just like the Jews in the decades before Christ, Christians also look for a Messiah. We anticipate the coming of one who will not only eliminate disease, conflict, poverty, oppression and violence, but bring peace across the world. The dreams of the prophet Isaiah (Is 9:1-7, 11:1-9, etc.), of paradise restored, are ours too. Just as Israel hoped for a Messiah, Christians await him.
Throughout history and across the world, in private homes and public businesses, on dusty roads and paved pathways, within the halls of power and the seats of government there echoes a persistent question: What can overcome the misery, the hunger, the war and the murder that so heavily weighs the world down in grief and sorrow and death.
What will restore the devastations wreaked by sin? What is big enough and strong enough to turn back the darkness?
At Advent we remember the answer. Our longings for justice, reconciliation and peace were answered when God stepped out of eternity into our world.
But it was not as we expected. God did not come in strength and power. God came as a baby – weak and vulnerable. The fragility continued in the years ahead of him. He lived with those who reject him, loved those who hate him and forgave those who kill him. He died, naked and humiliated, on a Roman cross.
Nevertheless, it is in this Messiah we find hope. It is not a strong and triumphant hope full of power and might. It is a fragile hope matched by the fragility of a baby born in an animal shed lying in a feed trough. It is as curious as it is unexpected, for it is in his weakness that we find strength, in his darkness we receive light, in his pain we discover joy and in his death we are given life.
Advent is a time to remember where our hope lies. Although we may be buffeted by harassment and violence, shaken by threats of alienation and death, reduced to poverty and deprivation, and weakened by the effects of secularism, humanism and consumerism, we have a hope that sustains us. But it is found in a strange place, wrapped in the weakness and vulnerability of a newborn baby.
Stephen L Baxter