Advent hope during the pandemic

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Advent is a time of waiting, of expectation and of hope. This year, we are all waiting, expecting and hoping for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. We wait for and expect a safe and effective vaccine. We look forward with hope to a return to normal life, to not have to worry about getting too close to people, to be able to gather again with family and friends, to travel, and to worship and praise God in song at our liturgies.

We wait in joyful expectation for the coming of a vaccine. We hope that soon it will be widely distributed. We look forward to going out to eat and shopping without worry of contracting the virus. We look forward to attending sports events and enjoying full stadiums. We look forward to continual in-person classes in our schools, without worrying about having to resort to virtual classes.

We wait with hope to being able to visit our loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes and those who have had to stay home during this pandemic. We look forward to visiting them without the worry that we may be carrying the deadly virus.

We wait to go to church and gathering closely again as we worship the Lord. We hope to see our churches full without necessary empty pews to keep people apart. We look forward to singing without worrying about spreading the virus. We look forward to exchanging the sign of peace with our neighbors.

We wait and we hope. Yet even when life returns to normal, there will not be an end to sickness and suffering. There will not be an end to all loneliness and isolation. The sorrows of life will not disappear. The production of a vaccine, a wonderful accomplishment of science, which we have hoped and prayed for, will not bring peace to the world. As wonderful as it is, a vaccine will not eradicate the diseases of the spirit that are part of our life in this valley of tears. It will not eradicate sin and injustice. A vaccine will not bring eternal life. It will not inoculate us against sin and death.

We hope for a vaccine and an end to the pandemic, but this is not our greatest hope. Deep down, we will still feel a longing for something greater, a longing for unending happiness, a longing for joy, peace and love. In a word, we long for salvation. We long for a Savior. We long for God. Without Him, we have no ultimate hope and will not find joy and peace. Without Him, we go through life as a journey toward death. With Him, we go through life as a journey toward the fullness of life.

The season of Advent focuses on this great hope. It is a time of waiting for and expecting the coming of God among us. Our God is the God-who-comes. He is not a God far away in the distant cosmos, a God unconcerned about us and our life. He is the God who became one of us, who sent His Son that we might have life, life in abundance. He is Love and, therefore, He comes to save us.

The angel told Joseph to name the child to be born of Mary “Jesus.” He said: “You are to name him Jesus because he will save hi