‘Tis the season for audacity. As Christians around the world enter the season of Advent we embrace hope. In a world hell-bent on immediate gratification with its attendant impatience Christians will light a simple candle, the Candle of Hope, on the first Sunday of Advent. As the world around us clamors for the now–-which always sounds like “Right Now!”–Christians whisper, “Wait … Wait!”
That first candle, the Candle of Hope, lights the way as we embrace the most audacious time of the year. In the dim light of the first candle we glimpse the promise that week-by-week other candles will burn, but we also know that will have to wait. So, we wait. We wait for the lone flame to gain its strength, to spread its light, to warm our chilly hearts and make us bold once more.
The temerity of it! The audacity of choosing to wait while all the world (it seems) is in a hurry. The audacity of choosing to proclaim that Advent Hope is the beginning of days and not the ending of days. The temerity of choosing a different calendar by which to order our days and our lives in hope.
On the first Sunday of Advent we hear the hoarse whispers of the prophet Jeremiah. “Wait,” he whispers, “Wait!”
His whispers are hoarse because his throat has been scalded by his own tears as he saw the glory of the kingdom of David fade. In the face of lost hope for his day–do not forget that the prophet lived through two invasions of Jerusalem by the Babylonians–Jeremiah chose to cling to a coming hope. Jeremiah refuses to abandon hope. Instead he glimpses in the promise of God a day when “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety” (Jer 33.16).
The psalmist emboldens us, too, on the first Sunday in Advent. “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been of old” (Ps 25.6). Only the fiercest of hopes could be so bold as to remind God of divine character! It is the essence of hope to rely upon God to be God. “Wait,” the psalmist whispers, “Wait!” With a pleading hope the poet writes, “Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame” (Ps 25.3).
The strains of hope echo as well on the first Sunday of Advent when we hear the Apostle’s convictions that his friends in Thessalonica might continue to mature in the light of hope. “Wait,” the Apostle whispers, “Wait!” Paul’s hope is the audacity of gratitude that makes him write, “How can we thank God enough for you?” (1 Thess 3.9), only to follow with “And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thess 3.13).
‘Tis the season for audacity. As Christians around the world enter the season of Advent we embrace hope. In a world hell-bent on immediate gratification with its attendant impatience Christians will light a simple candle, the Candle of Hope. On the first Sunday of Advent the Gospel lesson whispers “Wait . . . Wait!.” Jesus himself whispers, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipations and drunkenness and the worries of this life” (Luke 21.34).
In his immortal poem Dante reports the inscription above the gates of hell: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” The audacity of Advent–and especially the first Sunday of Advent–is the refusal to abandon hope. In a hell-bent world Christians stand against the urgency of now–which always sounds like “Right Now!” Christians whisper, “Wait … Wait!”
It is the prophets, the psalms, the epistles, and the Gospel.
Richard F. Wilson is Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology and Chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.