Growing up, I had always heard, and quite honestly believed, that the opposite of fear was love. But as the years have gone on, as I have gone to Divinity school, read the Bible a little more closely, I have begun to see that there are lots of opposites of fear.
As a matter of fact, in some ways, the entire season of Advent is themed with opposites of fear. Hope, love, peace and joy are all opposites of fear. It is difficult to be joyful while you are fearful. It is difficult to be at peace when you are experiencing fear. It is difficult to love that which you fear. When fear has a strangle hold on your life, it would seem that all hope is lost.
Biblically then, it is no surprise that angles greeted us saying, “Be not afraid.” We seem to have a disposition and dispensation for living in fearfulness, for being motivated out of fear, for finding fear even in that which was intended for hope, love, peace and joy.
For the Christian world, Advent is the beginning of our liturgical year. It’s the four weeks leading up to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. In modern times, we have a tendency to jump right from Thanksgiving to Christmas (for that matters it seems most stores jump from Halloween to Christmas). Skipping Advent robs us of an opportunity to have a deeper understanding and experience of what the coming of Jesus means not only to us but to the world.
You see, Advent is a time of waiting. A time of waiting and anticipating what the arrival of this baby means. In part, it is the absence of Jesus during Advent that helps us understand how celebratory the arrival of the child born in a manger is. It is in the waiting for Hope to come down that we begin to understand hopefulness.
Let us not rush into Christmas, but rather bask in the anticipation of that which has both happened and is yet to come. You see, in waiting for Hope to come down for the first time, we begin to understand why there is hope in the second appearing of Christ. The apocalypse is not the fearful thing we (with the help of Hollywood) have made it out to be.
The promise of a second appearing of Jesus is not to be feared. Much like Christmas, the first appearing, it is something we should wait for in hopeful anticipation, not fearful dreading. We should hopefully (not fearfully) wait for the second coming of Christ, if for no other reason than the knowledge of how the world changed for the better on the first appearing when Hope came down. To jump straight to Christmas, without Advent, is to miss out on the message of hope that the coming of a Savior brings.
Why is this all so important? Well, because we all suffer mini-apocalypse everyday. A parent’s health takes a turn for the worse, company’s layoff, a careless driver runs a stop sign, a spot shows up on the x-ray…uncertainties in life abound. Life’s difficulties are at times too heavy a burden for us to bear. In those times, in those moments, we need to know what hope looks like. We need someone we can count on. We need to know that there is hope. We need to know that Hope is with us.
That’s why Advent is important. In anticipating the arrival of the baby who will be born in a manger, it teaches us to hope in the face of fears, to hope in the face of all the mini-apocalypses that happen everyday.
Not only that, but being that that child has already arrived; being that that child grew up and his teachings still live on today; and being that ultimately, to show us how much we are loved, he hung on a tree and rose again…in all of those things, we are reminded that we are not alone.
When life overwhelms us, we are reminded that that child said to us, “Come to me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” When it feels like life has overwhelmed us and the shadows of fear are closing in, when the burdens of this world isolate us and we hope – we hope that we’re not alone, the journey through Advent serves as a steady and sure reminder that the one who said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world (KJV),” is here with us even now.
It reminds us that hope is… That hope is in the not knowing; that hope is expecting something but not knowing what the something is or even what it will look like. Hope is a joyful anticipation. Hope is knowing that we are not alone and that when Christmas arrives, when Hope comes down, we have every reason to celebrate!
But until then, we wait in hopeful anticipation for our God.