Advent is not a penitential season; it’s a period of devout and expectant delight, yet we intuitively understand that it is not possible coherently to celebrate the birth of him “who saves his people from their sins” without some effort to overcome sin in one’s own life, while waiting vigilantly for Him who will return at the end of time, or when we personally enter into eternity.
The purpose of Advent is to prepare us for the first coming of Christ at Christmas and for Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time.
Nevertheless, Advent is about hope. The first Advent candle is called the Candle of Hope. Romans 8:24 says that we are saved by hope.
Baptism is the ordinary means of the infusion of hope into the soul, giving a power to hope in the promise of God of heaven. No created thing can fill completely the heart of man, in whom God has placed an infinite capacity that can only be satisfied in God.
Optimism is an assessment. Hope is an act. 1
Hope resides in the will, its object is eternal happiness. The secondary object consists in all the means leading to it.
Hope is not selfish. We desire God for ourselves, not because of ourselves but because of himself. God continues to be the end or goal of the act of hope, not ourselves. Of ourselves alone we can do nothing, with God’s grace we can do all things (Phil. 4:13).
Hope increases by reading and hearing Scripture more. Romans 15:4 says, “By the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” Only hearing secular music or watching too much news can make one discouraged. Encouragement comes when we hear the voice of God speaking to us in the Holy Scriptures and in sacred and seasonal music this time of year.
As a verb, hope in Scripture is to wait, expect, and hope for, as in Ps 130:5: “I wait for the Lord; I wait and put my hope in his word.” The average person throughout their lifetime spends five years waiting in lines and six months of that is waiting at traffic lights.
Psychologists have linked hope to healing (Menninger) and to effective psychotherapy (Frankl). Anthony Scioli, speaks of the social nature of hope, based on connection, attachment and engagement.
Saying, “I feel so hopeful” is based on our experience of both availability and presence from another person which helps us have a taste of God’s incredible availability. 2
Hope is also a noun. In Rom 5:5, “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Hope is not a denial of reality. St. Paul has four checkpoints on the pathway toward having hope: suffering, endurance, proven character, hope.3
So, lastly, having hope protects us from bitterness of heart or a spirit of rebellion against Providence. Never to be preoccupied with anxious solicitude for tomorrow. We are submerged in the divine and loving providence of God. Nothing necessary will be lacking to us if we trust in him and if we hope for all things from him. We have the promise of Christ himself: “Look at the birds in the sky …. Think of the flowers growing in the fields. Will he not much more look after you?” (Matt. 6:26-30).
Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.”
The candle of hope reminds us to look at verses that tell about our coming king. It starts the time to refocus and look to the future with hope.
1. Terrance Klein, America magazine, 11/30/22
2. Lynn M. Levo, CSJ, PhD
3. Daniel T. Slavich, “UNDISAPPOINTED”: GROUNDING HOPE; Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology, 1/1/23