Learning to wait with hope
It is often said that we Filipinos have the longest Christmas Season. We start playing Christmas music, decorate our homes and schedule Christmas parties before or during the season of advent. Yes, we can’t wait to celebrate the birth of our Lord. We can’t wait to receive our 13th month pay and the Christmas bonus. We can’t wait to open our gifts and to party.
There may be various reasons why this is the case. It could be that we do not fully appreciate the spirit of advent. Or it could be that having been used to expect instant gratification of our desires, we lack the patience that comes with waiting for the appropriate moment—the kairos. We end up skipping the season of advent.
If we really want to fully appreciate the spirit of Christmas we need to understand in depth what the season of advent is all about. The Aramaic phrase maran-atha—“come, our Lord” is associated with this season. While we recall the incarnation—the coming of the Messiah over two thousand years ago. We also focus of our attention on the final coming of the Lord when he brings to completion and perfection the work of salvation—the full realization of the reign of God, the Parousia.
The season of Advent reminds us about waiting patiently and with hope for the coming of the Lord who liberates us from the power of darkness—the reign of sin and evil. Just as God’s people especially the anawim—the poor and the oppressed—waited for a long time for the Messiah to come, we also have to wait for the Lord to complete his work of salvation and totally defeat the forces of darkness.
If Christmas is the celebration of the coming of the light of the world—Jesus Christ our savior – then real joy will only be felt after we have experienced what it means to wait patiently with hope in our hearts in the midst of darkness. The season of advent is meant to teach us the value of waiting in hope—to be patient like the watchmen in the night waiting for daybreak or the people journeying in the night.
Many of us have experienced darkness in our life. There is evil around us. There is so much suffering and death. We dream of a time when good will triumph over evil. We want the violence to end. We long for the day when tyrants and their minions will disappear or be held accountable. We long for the coming of justice and peace. But we wonder how long must we wait. If we can’t have it now then we are filled with despair. But genuine liberation takes time. We need to learn how to wait patiently knowing that evil will not last forever – darkness will be defeated. When it finally comes we will know what joy really is: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”
Meanwhile as we journey through the darkness waiting for daybreak, we light our candles and share it with others. We have to do our part in the struggle against evil. We do not merely curse the darkness but become light in its midst. This can only be possible when we open our hearts to the invisible risen Lord who comes to us in our day to day life — in the Liturgy, in His word, through our neighbor especially the poor and the needy. We do not remain idle while we wait—we carry our mission to bring light to a world dominated by darkness of sin and evil. We struggle against evil within ourselves and in our society fully aware that evil will not be completely be eradicated until the parousia. The time between now and the Christ’s final coming is a constant struggle against the forces of evil. We may overcome the reign of an evil regime soon but another one may emerge.
Thus, we should not rush to the celebration of Christmas and end up skipping advent. If we fail to observe the season of advent properly, our Christmas celebration will become an empty ritual and endless parties forgetting its significance. Meanwhile, the poor and the lonely and the victims of injustice and violence will never appreciate the good news of Christmas—the coming of the light that brings salvation, Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Joy comes because as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Is 9:2)