By Derick Cranston
The gray bleakness of winter approaches, and a sharpness in the wind chills us to the bone. The countryside is stripped bare of its bountiful harvest and the mighty trees stand naked before us, no longer clothed in a wardrobe of leaves.
The earth tilts on its axis away from the sun, and nightfall descends much earlier. It is the season of cold and darkness, and the first rays of the morning dawn are far off.
As Christians enter into the season of Advent, it is also a season of hope and light. At the very same time that life shrinks away and disappears altogether, Christians look forward in anticipation to the celebration of the birth of Christ. It is a season of hope — hope in the promises made manifest by God taking on human flesh in the body of Jesus.
The French philosopher and playwright Gabriel Marcel once said, “Hope suggests an unconscious grasp on the reality of God as the ground and guarantor of human history, of human destiny.” In other words, hope is always there in the depths of our soul, urging us forward into the loving arms of God. The ancient Israelites looked with hope to the coming of the messiah. Christians look towards the future with hope for the coming of God’s kingdom. We reaffirm this hope every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. In order for the kingdom to come, we pray that the Lord’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
But as members of the all-too-fallible human race, we know that it is not always easy to do the Lord’s will. We stumble and fall on the path to righteousness. We become angry with our neighbor, and downright hostile towards our enemies. We do not forgive others their trespasses, and in the darkest corners of our heart, we seek revenge on those who have hurt us. We are tempted to do evil.
The word “evil” is the word “live” spelled backwards. Some synonyms for “live” include “exist,” “be alive,” and “endure.” Evil is the opposite of what it means to exist and be alive, to endure to the next day. That is why God places hope in our hearts, a hope that will never be overcome by the darkness of evil.
Winter is a time where existence and survival become perilously fragile for all forms of life. We are warmed though, by the hope for Emmanuel, which literally can be translated as “God is among us.” Life has retreated before the cold and darkness of winter, but it is at this very same time that God becomes present among us to give us hope. The earth will tilt back on its axis towards the celestial body we call the sun and bring back the warmth of spring and summer.
We also know that the Son, who is our savior and redeemer, will return and bring the warmth of his Father’s love. It is the hope of the North Star that led wise men from the ends of the earth to lay their gifts at the feet of the baby Jesus. It is a hope that will light our way through the darkness of winter.
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)