Advent Reflections on Hope

Although a younger tradition than the Lent, the leadup to Eastertide, Advent is a time of waiting, of anticipation afresh the Incarnation. At its start (this year, December 2), is a feast day to begin the new Christian year. Many non-denominational churches pass right into the talk of Christmas, ignoring this special time of preparation for the arrival of Christmas on December 25, and marked out for the 12 days that follow it, until we reach Epiphany, the adoration of the wise men. 

The emphasis for each week is as follows: hope, love, joy, and peace. You may see them in a different order, but for our purposes here, we’ll use this sequencing. As you can imagine with those themes, and with Advent/Christmas generally, you know that Lewis provides a wealth of reflection. I want to provide several excerpts that touch on the particular idea for the week, as we walk together with the holy couple toward Bethlehem to experience this new thing: God made flesh, dwelling among us, as John writes.

“Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does” (Mere Christianity, Chapter 5).

“The supposed threat [of scientists finding life on other planets] is clearly directed against the doctrine of the Incarnation, the belief that God of God ‘for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was . . . made man.’ Why for us men more than for others? If we find ourselves to be but one among a million races, scattered through a million spheres, how can we, without absurd arrogance, believe ourselves to have been uniquely favored? I admit that the question could become formidable…. It might turn out that the redemption of other species differed from ours by working through ours. There is a hint of something like this in St. Paul (Romans 8:19–23) when he says that the whole creation is longing and waiting to be delivered from some kind of slavery, and that the deliverance will occur only when we, we Christians, fully enter upon our sonship to God and exercise our ‘glorious liberty'” (The World’s Last Night, Chapter 6 “Religion and Rocketry”).

“Have you not often felt in Church, if the first lesson is some great passage, that the second lesson is somehow small by comparison—almost, if one might say so, humdrum? So it is and so it must be. That is the humiliation of myth into fact, of God into Man; what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid—no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowing boat on the Lake of Galilee. You may say that this, after all, is a still deeper poetry. I will not contradict you. The humiliation leads to a greater glory. But the humiliation of God and the shrinking or condensation of the myth as it becomes fact are also quite real” (The Weight of Glory, “Transposition”).

Next week, we’ll move to selections about love. Until then, reflect on these words of hope from Paul to Timothy… to us: “… train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (I Timothy 4: 7-10).

 

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