The Hope of Christmas
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. [Luke 1:46-49 NIV]
Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she will bear a son. He will be the savior of the world; he will be called “son of the Most High.” Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who is also pregnant with John the Baptist. When Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, Elizabeth’s baby “leaped in her womb.” Elizabeth, overcome by the Holy Spirit, proclaims that Mary and her child will be blessed.
Upon hearing this, Mary bursts into song, a song which we know as the Magnificat. The promise has yet to come to pass but Mary is singing about it ahead of time. She is singing as if the promise has already occurred. She is filled with a sensation that she hasn’t felt in a long time, if ever—Hope. Hope for a world filled with desperation and despair. Hope that this child will extend his mercy to all, will be mindful of the poor state of the world, and turn the world topsy-turvy so that the mighty will be brought low, and the humble will be exalted.
Hope is the theme for the first Sunday in Advent. It will be the first candle we light in the Advent wreath this coming Sunday. Hope is a word we throw around a lot in our conversations. In our everyday conversations hope has a level of uncertainty in it. For example, all year I hoped that the Tampa Bay Rays would make it back to the World Series. But that didn’t happen, no matter how much I hoped for it.
Christian hope is different. Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen, and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass. So much so, that the future tense has become the past tense. We can rest assured that it has already happened.
The first message of Advent is to give us hope. I heard it best expressed in a quote from an unknown source, “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future, faith is having the courage to dance to it today.” The hope of Christmas is the ability to hear the music of the divine, which leads to Mary bursting out in song, and us as well as we hear the music of the promises of God. We light the first Advent candle this Sunday to share the hope that is given to us in this season with the baby in the manger—the hope that leads to faith so that we can respond in celebration today. (But faith is the theme for next week, so, stay tuned...)