It is nearly the end of the calendar year and yet the pandemic seems to be nowhere near an end. This does not make us hopeless. We have an enduring reason to be hopeful even in the most depressing circumstances. The Advent season represents that hope.
Advent, drawing its origin from the Latin, Adventus, means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. Its observance is triple layered: first, it celebrates the arrival of Christ at incarnation; second, it marks His arrival into the lives of believers, symbolized at baptism, and, third, it anticipates His arrival at eschaton.
All these events are emblematic of new beginnings. The first advent brought hope to the world of restoration from its sinfulness; the second advent births a renewed person, and the third advent brings hope to believers of a restored heaven and earth.
In the Christian calendar of most traditions, the Advent season marks the beginning of the liturgical year. Needless to say, the year 2020 will be the most unforgettable year for the global community of this generation. Although there have been positive perspectives, they are usually a case of making good out of bad.
In general, this pandemic has been unkind to the larger population in every part of the world, and especially so, for the poorer communities. For those adversely affected by it, the struggle for sustenance may differ in kind but is equally burdening in degree.
Many working people have lost their source of livelihood, some students have dropped out of school, the destitute have been rendered hungrier and homeless, children and aging left without constant company, and still many have lost their lives and the lives of their near and dear ones with most even without a chance to say proper goodbyes.
Thus, the liturgical new year will most certainly be a lot different from other years. It may be generally marked by a feeling of great sadness and untold anxiety. Nevertheless, God must know the losses we had to incur and the grieve we had to bear in this pandemic. God also knows the fear of uncertainty that even Covid-19 vaccines cannot ease. Still, the immanence of God comforts us to face the coming days.
This year the Advent season begins from November 29. And Christian communities may have quite a unique way of observing this season of hope. Even when church gatherings may not be possible there are other ways to keep hope alive. For starters, we can light a candle each Sunday in our homes.
Perhaps, the light emitting from the Advent candles may take time to illumine most dark places shaded by Covid-19, but the light of Christ is surely able to brighten every dark corner. He is the real living light (John 8:12) that has come and, today, comes every day to show His love.
The light that shines will speak to us in a special way as it reminds us of its power to dispel the darkness that the pandemic brings. Those who are blessed with the light can be generous in giving it out and igniting those who need it in different forms and ways, even beyond our home and immediate family. That would be the greatest act of emulating God’s giving of His Son and His Spirit out of great love for the world (John 3: 16).
Darkness might have engulfed many individuals, homes and communities. But as Isaiah 9:2 professes, “Those who have sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who have sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
Darkness caused by joblessness, bereavement, loneliness, poverty, accumulated debts, immobility and disease are not without hope. Those in such circumstances also need not hide themselves away in the corners of darkness.
The light has come! It is here and God calls us to walk into it (1 John 1: 7). May Advent be the beginning of the end of darkness caused or aggravated by the pandemic!
Dr. Eyingbeni-Hümtsoe Nienu is the Principal of the Baptist Theological College, Nagaland, India.
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash