The Advent of Hope
The Christmas season carries a lot of sentimentality for most of us. The majority have fond memories from their childhood, memories of family spending time together eating good food and giving gifts. Yet, others cannot help but feel emptiness and loneliness. While this sentimentality can often overwhelm Christians, the reason we celebrate is not because of tradition but because of the historical reality that the baby in the manger in Bethlehem was God incarnate.
One of the great tools we have to focus our celebration aright is the advent calendar. It helps us move past the season's sentimentality to the marrow of Christ's coming. With the advent calendar, we are reminded of the spiritual story underneath the historical reality, meaning we must feel more than traditional sentiment. For this to take place in our hearts, we must turn our attention to the doctrine of the story.
The first advent is hope, and rightly so, because the anticipation for Christ's first and second comings rests on God's eternal Word. That means all our expectations and waiting for Christ to come are filled with hope.
There are many misguided approaches to waiting for Christ's coming, such as desiring Him to come so we can escape our fallen world or infatuating ourselves with the signs of the times. Anything that draws our eyes away from Christ to hope for Him is a misled attitude. Think of the Pharisees, lovers of the Law and steeped in prophecies of the messiah, who completely missed Christ because He was not what they thought He should be. Ironically, we mirror them by judging the end-times prophesies by what we read in the newspaper.
Hope is our proper attitude. It sets our hearts in the right place to watch for Christ and receive Him when He comes again.
1. Hope like Israel
Our best model of hope comes from those who waited eagerly by faith for Christ's first coming. The majority of them did not see their longed-for messiah, yet they hoped in Him wholeheartedly. Luke's gospel records two individuals, Simeon and Anna, with entirely different life experiences welcoming Christ similarly (Luke 2:25-38). Like the patriarchs of old, they understood the doctrinal and gospel significance of the messiah. So while their physical eyes were growing dim with age, their spiritual eyes were vibrantly open to welcome Him.
We learn from their example to base our hope in the doctrine of Christ, meaning we hope in Christ Himself before we hope in Him for our escape from this world. Of course, we must first love Christ Himself more than our own lives to do this. Perhaps this boils down to the fact that what we hope for is what we treasure most.
2. Hope in the resurrection
When writing to the church in Corinth, Paul tied our future hope of Christ's return to Christ's resurrection. In a sense, Paul only mimicked the faith of Simeon and Anna by focussing on the doctrine of Christ above his experiences and desires. In all his teaching on the end times, Paul seemed to value the resurrection most, and not simply because he would then possess a body without pain and suffering, but because he would experience the glory of Christ in its fullness.
When thinking of the end times and Christ's return, many people nowadays think of a magical rapture where we will disappear from this earth before any trouble affects us. Assuredly, there is more to the rapture than that, but even in its entirety, it pales in comparison to the resurrection. Resurrection is a term brimming with Christ-centred doctrinal significance, so I think it's unhelpful to speak of the rapture where Paul speaks of the resurrection, at least in light of our understanding of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:50-57).
3. Hope for Jesus
As I have mentioned above, what we desire is what we hope for. I will take that one step further and say, what we love, we desire. Thus, to have true hope in Christ means to love Him and desire Him above all else. Further, when we hope in Christ, our watchfulness for His coming is energized with supernatural power and spiritual eyes. We no longer need to scour the
newspapers to know when we ought to ready ourselves for His appearance, but we will naturally and excitedly watch and wait.
This advent season is a reminder and encouragement to walk through this world with a celestial attitude, filled with hope in Christ. Let us anticipate Christ for Himself and not for any earthly desire.
 There are many different ways to celebrate advent, but for this article I focus on the hope-peace-joy-love tradition.