An Advent Community of Hope
By Stephen M. Veazey, First Presidency
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. —Galatians 5:22–23 NRSV
Lately I have been rereading Geoff Spencer’s book, A Brightness of Hope: A Study of the Christian Doctrine of Hope. I keep going back to chapter two, “Stretched Out in Hope.” Spencer writes:
Christian faith embodies a built-in orientation toward the future. This orientation is not to the near future so much as to the ultimate future, or the end, the final purpose to which all life is believed to be moving, the ultimate intention of divine creativity in the world.
He observes that when addressing the future, English is somewhat lacking in terms of expressing possibilities. As an alternative, he highlights two Latin words that provide interesting options:
Futurum refers to a time to come in the normal passage of events; “calendar time,” he writes, might be a reasonable way of describing it. The other word, adventus, has been used by Christians to point to the unexpected and surprising way God’s future constantly breaks in on us and shapes the direction of our lives. Although we normally use the word to name a period in the Christian year leading to the birth of the Christ Child, it is the quality of advent that characterizes God’s future. People of hope are advent people.
How we choose to view the future impacts how we live. Based on what seems evident—a world laden with poverty, disease, conflict, and troubling moral dilemmas—we can conclude the future simply will be a continuation of the present, or even more deterioration. Of course, this approach easily overwhelms any sense of abiding hope.
Alternatively, we can meet the future with active hope because we already have evidence that God breaks into the human story in unexpected ways that set in motion new possibilities. For people of faith, this evidence includes events like God’s calling of Abraham, the exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt, the birth of Jesus Christ, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early Christian community. All of these were advent-type events that revealed God’s pivotal involvement in human history.
To understand the power of choosing advent hope as our orientation to the future, Spencer quotes Letty Russell:
The question we ask…is, “When will justice, freedom, peace, and dignity happen if they happen at all?” Yet for Christians this is not the question. There is always the future (adventus) that comes toward us from God as promise. In relation to the adventus our question is not “When will it happen, if ever?” but “How can we live now as if the horizon of our future had already broken into our lives through the Spirit of Jesus Christ?”
The Advent season before Christmas typically is seen as a designated time to prepare spiritually for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In addition, I’d like to invite the church to greet the future, with all of its challenges and opportunities, by being an “advent community” year round.
What would that be like? I think we would love as if we already are a community of oneness and equality in Jesus Christ. We would give as if we already are a community characterized by the spiritual condition of abundant generosity. We would live as if justice and peace already had fully embraced, and “the present form of this world” had given way to the rising reign of God (1 Corinthians 7:31 NRSV).
It doesn’t hurt to hope. In fact, it can make all the difference!
Advent Prayer Phrase
Anticipation deepens within.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Spend a few moments dwelling in God’s presence. Pay attention to where your heart feels drawn into prayer. What words, images, or themes in this story lead you to reflect on your own faith journey? What is God’s invitation to you this day?