There's a nice little article on zenit.org today in which Pope Benedict XVI reflects on the nature and importance of hope and the season of Advent. Here's an excerpt:
"The world needs God, otherwise it remains without hope, said Benedict XVI when he summarized the central message of his encyclical 'Spe Salvi.'
"The Pope said this today before reciting the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square. He also spoke on the meaning of Advent, which begins today.
"Advent, the Holy Father said, 'is the propitious time to reawaken in our hearts the expectation of him "who is, who was and who is coming."'
"The Pontiff regarded the First Sunday of Advent as 'a most appropriate day to offer to the whole Church and all men of good will my second encyclical, which I wanted to dedicate to the theme of Christian hope.'
"Benedict XVI noted that in the New Testament 'the word hope is closely connected with the word faith.' Hope, he added, 'is a gift that changes the life of those who receive it, as the experience of so many saints demonstrates.'
"He asked: 'In what does this hope consist that is so great and so "trustworthy" as to make us say that "in it" we have "salvation"?
"'In substance it consists in the knowledge of God, in the discovery of his heart as a good and merciful Father.'"'With his death on the cross and his resurrection,' added the Pope, Jesus 'has revealed to us his countenance, the countenance of a God so great in love as to communicate to us an indestructible hope, a hope that not even death can crack, because the life of those who entrust themselves to this Father always opens onto the perspective of eternal beatitude.'"