Caroline, from our Theology team, reflects on the invitation to hope as we begin a new Church year.
Has anyone wished you a happy new year this week? If not, then let me be the first! Not, of course, the beginning of 2024 but rather the start of the new Christian year which begins in Advent. This Advent we also begin the Year of Prayer, a year where Pope Francis calls us to pray in preparation for the 2025 Jubilee Year “Pilgrims of Hope.”
It may perhaps seem curious that the Christian year begins not in the triumph of Easter, nor the rushing wind of Pentecost or even the joy of Christmas. Instead, each year Advent bursts upon us with its striking message. Stay awake. Pay attention. Be ready. Be open to God who draws near.
Hope is the door that opens onto the future
The start of the new Church year invites us to hope. To remember how God has acted in the past, is active in the present and will act in the future to bring justice, peace and the transformation of creation.
We all need this hope. This time of year is full and can sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed or weary. The conflict and suffering in the world around us cannot fail to make our hearts heavy.
The hope of Advent is not mere optimism or wishful thinking. Rather it is active in its trust in God’s promises and bold in its imagination. As Pope Francis puts it:
“To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing… Hope is the door that opens onto the future…And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness.”Pope Francis – TED Talk: April 26, 2017
Advent allows us space to honestly acknowledge and grieve that all that is not right in the world and in our lives. We can long together for the coming of our Saviour and join in the task we have been given to prepare the way of the Lord, bearing witness to the coming reign of God.
Life is Advent
“The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognise him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognising the coming of the Lord.”Henri Nouwen
As we prepare to celebrate the overwhelming gift of God’s incarnation at Christmas, we are invited to ponder where we can see God at work in in our lives and in the world around us now. To see Jesus coming today wherever we are confronted with human need and whenever we seize the opportunity to live generously, to forgive or to challenge injustice. Let’s not wait to reach out to our sisters and brothers in love.
Wishing you every blessing on the rest of your Advent journey and a very happy Christmas when it comes.