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Memory, presence and hope


As part of our ‘Being Together this Advent’ social media initiative, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall explores what Advent means to him and what gifts God offers us in Advent

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Being Together This Advent

St Augustine once said that all time is present.

The past is present now as memory.

The present is what we now experience through our senses.

And the future is present now as expectation of hope.

This insight helps us understand the season of Advent.

In Latin, adventus means ‘arrival’. Advent is about the arrival of Christ. We remember that Christ arrived at Bethlehem as a human infant. We remember his life and the remarkable impacts he had on the lives of those who encountered his transforming love. We remember his death on the cross, the ultimate expression of God’s love for us. We remember his rising to life beyond death. And, we remember his promise to be with us forever through the Holy Spirit whom he sends to us.

Christ arrived and is present to us now through memory.

More than remembering, though, because Christ sends us the Holy Spirit, Christ is present with us now beyond memory. He is present. Christ arrives in the present by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit breaks into our lives now. Christ arrives in moments of healing, forgiveness, generosity, grace, kindness, faithfulness, love and joy. As the Spirit breaks through, Christ arrives.

And in these ‘Spirit-moments’ we see glimpses of what will be when Christ finally arrives in glory. God will bring to completion and fulfilment the eternity which began in Bethlehem and was sealed by the resurrection. Though no one knows the day or the hour, Christ will arrive and God’s new creation begun in Bethlehem, will enfold us for eternity.

Our small acts today of forgiveness, generosity, grace, kindness, faithfulness, love and joy are actually of eternal significance. They are a present taste and a sign of what will finally be for eternity. We live now in the power of that expectation and hope.

Advent. Arrival. Memory, presence and hope. Christ arrived in Bethlehem. Christ arrives in each believer’s life and in our midst, day by day. Christ will arrive at last in glory and make us his own for eternity.

Memory, presence and hope are God’s gifts to us in Advent.

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