A Season of Change and Hope

Are you ready to welcome Jesus and God’s Love into your heart? How prepared are you for His second coming?

The word Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” which is a translation of the Greek word Parousia.

The first day of Advent is the first day of a new Liturgical (or church) calendar year and begins a four week preparation in anticipation of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

It is a time to get ready and prepare for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The season of Advent for Christians is one of anticipation and hope.

Four candles are lit during four weeks of Advent, and one candle is lit each Sunday.

The first candle that is lit today symbolizes hope. It is sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah. Also it proclaims our belief that Christ light will come to pierce our darkness and a sign of hope with the light.

The significant of lighting the candle on the wreath is to remind us that Christ is coming back into the world.

I love this time of the year, because it is not hot, it is cool and nice to observe the remarkable and neatly design Christmas lights and listening to different Christmas music.   

For business enterprises this time of the year is make or break. Television and radio stations are flooded with advertisements from retailing stores.

This time of the year can be a challenging time as well for some parents and friends because they are trying to keep up with the Christmas list.

However, as Christians we need to remember that this time of the year is not about purchasing and receiving gifts alone. Rather it is about self-reflection, awaiting the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and inviting Him into our hearts and our lives.

Please understand that I am not suggesting that we should not buy gifts or exchange gifts, but to remember the main reason why we celebrate this time of the year. 

In our second reading today from Thessalonians 3:12

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you”. What is Paul urging us here? How does one abound in love? How does one welcome Jesus and God’s love into one’s heart?

I suggest it is about been compassionate, seeing Jesus in everyone we meet and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our Lord does not require us to be perfect, because no one is perfect but God. All He requires of us is our hearts. Advent is a season of change and a season of hope.

Our gospel reading today is full of apocalyptic images; “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and the stars, and on the earth. Distress of nations, with the perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring” 

Jesus calls us to be “alert at all times”.

During this time of Advent, we need to focus on hope in the midst of international crises, in personal issues or even the current challenging legal issues confronting us as Episcopalians as we address them.

What are the readings we heard today saying to us here in the year 2021?

The signs of the times written in today’s gospel have a resemblance with some of the things we have observed, experienced, or going through.

It is not an understatement to say the effect of the climate change that causes fire and flood around the world, we now have frequent earthquakes around the world, the current pandemic we are still dealing with, civil unrest around the world, economic collapse in several countries and killing of innocent people just because they do not look like us or share our beliefs.

I am still

 concern that the effect of the Covid-19 is not known yet. Some children are still behind in school, and many families are still trying to get their lives back to normal. Some families have lost their only bread winners, especially those children that have lost both parents to this vicious virus, leaving them with no parental guardian or support when going through their younger years. These children and their family need our prayers.

Today’s passage reading is not about Jesus predicting the end of the world, but we need Him to shepherd us through these hard times.

Therefore where is our hope and how do we connect with that hope?

In our Collect for today

“ Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever”.

The fact remains that Our God knows us, and loves us and cherishes us in only way a God can, and He celebrates our joys and embraces our sorrows.

Within the next week, I will be visiting Nigeria my birthplace, a country that I have not visited going to 20 yrs. I have lost my parents and both of my siblings, so my visit will be with mixed feelings, in that during this festive season, I will be visiting grave sites of my parents and my siblings. I will be visiting the grave site for my only brother for the first time. Some other relatives and childhood friends that I knew have passed on as well.

Does it hurt, yes it hurts a lot and I do not wish it on anyone. I am sharing my story because I am fortunate to have good support of my wife and some close friends, therefore, I am good.

Holiday season as well can be a very lonely and empty time for some folks around us.

Loneliness can occur is spite of all busy activities and social events that surrounds this time of the year. Depression can easily set in and hit us hard during this festive mood.

Depression sets in when someone see life without hope or with very little hope; thinking about losses of loved ones over the past year or just thinking about memories of the past.

Brothers and sisters, we are each other keepers; I encourage us to check on each other and lift each other up especially those who might need our help during this festive season.

Today we lit the first candle of the advent wreath. The first candle is the candle of hope. We all need this flame of hope to burn on in our soul.

Have you heard this phrase “I just can’t get into the Christmas spirit / mood”? The truth is we are not meant to get into Christmas. Christmas is meant to get into us. Christ is meant to get into us.

Our hope as Christians does not rest on what we might do, but on what God will do.

Our hope rest on a God who saves us when we are hopelessly mired in sin and shame, who gives us the strength and grace to turn from evil and look towards Him for forgiveness.

Our hope as Christians rest on a God who brings victory when we are utterly defeated.

Faith gives us hope to look up and see stars that are signs of God’s presence, power and love.

I encourage all of us to keep the image of Jesus in our minds as we move through Advent into the joy of Christmas. He is the reason for all of our hopes and dreams.

Jesus is telling us today that our job is not to figure out when that moment will come of his return, but simply to be ready all the time. Amen.