joyful hope

What did you go out to the desert to see?

-Matthew 11:7

Advent is the season of patience. It begins, it seems, as we wait for the days to begin to get longer. For me, the darkness that comes earlier and earlier in the evening is sometimes unbearable. And yet, when I drive home after a long day of work and darkness surrounds me, the beautiful Christmas light displays seem to light my way home.

When I consider the people in my life who are living saints, one of the qualities that I find in several people is joy, a theme that returns again and again. My dear friend whose hair is returning after months of chemo and radiation never seemed to be without at least a tiny bit of joy in the face of her illness; a twinkle in her eyes; an appreciation for all her gifts. Another friend who works tirelessly for the homeless in her community does every act of charity with a joyfulness that inspires me. Even that perfect stranger that I saw at the mall last night who was joyfully singing along to the piped-in Christmas carols had an air of sainthood about her.

In Advent, we wait in joyful hope. But does the joy come first? Am I joyful as a result of the waiting? Or do I have a joyful view of life that is only strengthened and increased when I contemplate the birth of Christ? Our God, the one who became man, wants our full flourishing. As I wait in joyful hope, I ask myself: What do I go out to the desert to see?