Advent started this week and I decided to write my way through this December. I planned to post weekly on the themes of Advent: hope, faith, joy, and peace, then wrap it up with a rhetorical bow on Christmas. Since developing this plan, I’ve had an incredibly hard time writing anything. Actually, as I type this, there are only 20 minutes left until week two of Advent kicks off.
Advent starts with hope but the more I thought about hope, the more distance I felt from it. I thought about hope, then I got bad news from work. I tried to read about hope and I got distracted by some vile internet article. I tried to pray about hope and I kept thinking about the student who broke down crying out of hopelessness yesterday. I started increasing my daily intake of Christmas music to rustle up some hope. I asked some wise women what they think about hope. But when I sat down to write, nothing surfaced. I could tell that this was something I needed to intentionally wrestle with, but I felt too worn out to dig deeper.
This year has been really hard. There’s been darkness and outrage and war and wickedness. How does hope exist when we’re surrounded by stifling fear and loss? My instincts are telling me to just sit still and cross my fingers. If we’re going to be swallowed by quicksand, why struggle?
But as I stared at this blank document on my computer screen, I realized despondency doesn’t suit me. Part of anxiety is anticipation, and I spent all year anticipating a breakthrough — a glimmer of solace. Hoping that the veil of loss and fear would unravel, and we would start to see some light. Advent is a breath of fresh air because there is space for hope again. During Advent, I can acknowledge the ways I’ve been yearning for something better. For relief and rescue and restoration. And according to Christmas, I can have hope because that something better isn’t as mysterious as it once was. The source of relief, rescue and restoration is on His way.
Hope is confidence in something even when it is far away or feels far fetched. Hope isn’t naive. Hope is brave. Rather than listening to our instincts (shutting down and circling the wagons/battening the hatches/bracing for impact), hope says “I will be vulnerable and acknowledge that I’m yearning for more.” Hope doesn’t blindly ask me to ignore fear or suffering or pain. Hope is seeing the fear, then lifting your gaze higher and seeing the solution. Today I have hope because I know a day will come where there are no more sinus infections or traffic jams. No more broken relationships or lonely seasons. No more disease or bigotry or poverty. No more addiction or abuse. No more exhaustion or anxiety. No more vicious cycles or selfish impulses. Love is chasing us and finding us (Oh Light – The Liturgists).
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13