Advent Week One: How to Have a Hope-filled Advent
When I walked into the coffee shop near my house, I saw a display for a Christmas survival kit. The kit included gingerbread cookies and a few other treats.
While the items themselves would make a nice gift set, the name made me ask myself some questions:
- Why do people need a Christmas survival kit?
- Am I just surviving the holidays this year?
- Should our Christmas preparations be so stressed-filled?
More Than Just Surviving
I’d really prefer to do more than just survive as I prepare for Christmas and I’m sure you would too. Luckily the Church gives us this time of year so that we can prepare for the coming of the Christ-child. This looks a lot different from the hustle and bustle of the season.
As we light the first candle on the Advent Wreath we slow down and reflect on hope. Christ doesn’t require you to spend hours looking for the perfect gift online or expect you to to do every holiday tradition possible. He just asks for you—for your time in prayer and that you find your hope in Him. He just wants to fill your heart with His love.
This Advent I want to have more hope in my life and to have a mindset that’s centered on Christ and eternity. Let’s do more than survive this Advent. Let’s have a hope-filled Advent.
Hope in Christ Throughout The Season
Christ came into a world full of sin and hatred to give us eternal life. Oftentimes, I can find myself turning more to fear than to hope. But if He loves us this much, what do we have to be afraid of? We can face any disappointment and still have hope in Christ. That’s what Christmas is all about.
We can (and should) still hope for worldly things. If you are hoping to meet the right person, that is a good thing! We know that God cares about us and wants to take care of us, even in the ordinary things. Of course, things may not happen in our timeline or the way we imagine, but we can rest in the hope that God cares for us. He will provide for us even in challenging circumstances, or when the holidays are lonely. He came to give us fullness of life, and that’s a life in Him.
Daily Hope Through The Duration
During Advent, I like to look at a manger scene and meditate upon the sheer amazingness of the Incarnation. We can imagine the time before Christ came into this world and the hope that people held in His coming. As we wait for Christmas, we can fill our lives with hope for his coming, just as people did before that first Christmas. When Christ comes, how will he change your life?
Whenever you see a nativity scene this Advent remember that you too can daily welcome Christ with your own “yes” into every aspect of our life. He came into the world at a time of political unrest, surrounded by the messiness of the stable.
He had a very humble beginning even though He is the King of Kings, but He came so that He could enter into the messiness and brokenness of our lives. If we let Christ enter into our heart He can transform it. He can give us rest when we are weary this Advent.
Signs of Hope In Experience
It’s challenging to keep hoping for the right things. My hope isn’t found in Black Friday sales, in my plans for my family’s future, or in the next feel-good Hallmark movie I watch.
Maybe you find yourself hoping in finding a spouse or in having a job promotion. It’s great to have hope in the future or to think that your dreams will come true, but it’s important to remember that ultimately none of these things can fill the place of Christ in your life or give you a lasting hope.
Many day-to-day experiences give me hope too, like the barista who remembers my order, the doctor who takes time to listen and answer my questions, or the generosity I see in my local neighborhood. Even though these moments are temporary, they remind me of Christ’s love.
Preparing Our Hearts
This first week of Advent we are preparing a place in our hearts for Christ – for welcoming the greatest gift imaginable into our hearts.
Do you want this Christmas to be different? Do you want peace amidst the holiday hubbub and your list of to-dos? Let us spend more time making room in our hearts for Christ and less time worried about the gifts we buy. This can be really challenging to do.
Here’s a small reflection to help you get started:
- What are my priorities this Advent? Do they reflect the true reason for Christmas?
- Are there areas of my life that are more founded on fear than on hope?
- Have I surrendered the hard parts of my life, like my messiness or brokenness, to Christ? Or have I hardened my heart to the idea of hope?
- How can I make more room for Jesus in my heart during these upcoming weeks?
- How can I do more than survive as I prepare for Christmas?
During Advent, we remember that God the Father created us and that He has a good plan for us. He keeps His promises and is faithful. Take some time this Advent to meditate on God’s goodness and great mercy in sending his only son this Christmas. Your heart longs to allow Jesus to come into your heart daily, it’s the greatest gift you can ever receive.
Bethany Swanson studied Humanities and Catholic Culture at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She’s originally from Oregon and is now enjoying the beaches and warm weather of California with her husband William. She shares her reflections on newlywed life and the faith on her blog at http://www.strengthenmyheart.com/