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The distinguishing mark of Advent is hope; this is the season of hope. It may not be too obvious with all the “immediate” jump into the Christmas spirit, given the materialism that overrides the season. Nevertheless, the Word of God reminds us that as we wait for the Lord, we exercise the hope in our hearts.

What is hope? I think we can simply say it is like waiting for the “not yet.” We know that something will happen, sooner or later, but for now it is not yet. Still, we put our hearts into this thing we await. “I hope to win the lotto megaprize. I hope to marry my sweetheart. I hope to graduate this year. I hope to pay my debts.”

Let us focus on the second reading, Romans 15: 4-9, where Paul explains that God intends that “we might have hope.” We can obtain this sense of hope if we practice endurance and if we listen to the encouragement of Scriptures. In fact, and this is interesting, Paul introduces a new title of God – “the God of endurance and encouragement.” This is my first time to notice this.

God is the God of endurance. Endurance is patience in suffering, acceptance of daily sacrifices, persistence in the midst of trials. God is the God of encouragement. He cheers us on while we fight the battles of life. He speaks to us his Word in Scriptures so that we may walk in confidence whatever life may throw at us.

Today, we have a big problem in the world. Instead of endurance, many people simply give up when trials come. Instead of encouragement, we give in to despair when we cannot see the light. That is why Advent comes each year to assure us that the Lord is coming, he is near! In the Gospel, Mt 3: 1-12 the Baptist proclaims that the Messiah is at the doorsteps. And he brings with him power from the Holy Spirit and the fire of love from the Father. We need not lose heart! We must be full of hope!

A friend told me how after many years of battling cancer, she is now tired, stressed and weary. A new growth was found in her body and another surgery was scheduled. And yet, she also expressed that though her body is distressed, her heart is strong because she continues to hope in Jesus. Like her, may we not listen to the negative reports of life, but adhere only to the God of endurance and encouragement who is with us always!