I love the season of Advent. I love the journey that the liturgy and lessons take us on. I love the intentional message of the season – of waiting, watching, anticipating and preparing for the coming of the Lord. At the foundation of the Advent journey and message is an invitation to live in a space of hope.
I don’t want to make the audacious claim that the world needs hope more now than ever. Yet the world feels more challenging than it has for a long time. Case in point was a recent poll which was reported in CNN: “After a bruising presidential election featuring the two least liked major-party candidates in recent history, more than 8-in-10 Americans say the country is more deeply divided on major issues this year than in the past several years, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. And more than half say they are dissatisfied with the way democracy is working in the US.”
With 80% of Americans, regardless of political persuasion, feeling a deep division in our country, could there be a greater need for the message of hope? My sense is that a hope that is merely a sugar coating that ‘everything is going to be okay’ will not suffice. Rather, a hope more akin to what Reverend Victoria Safford writes in her poem The Gates of Hope is needed:
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of
“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.”
As the ones who are waiting and watching, anticipating and preparing, could there be any greater call for us this Advent season than to be proclaimers of hope? A deeply rooted, faithful hope that fully embraces the challenges and tragedies of life and yet also sees and believes that despair and division will not prevail. A hope as articulated in these words in the hymn, There is a Hope by Stuart Townend & Mark Edwards:
“There is a hope that burns within my heart,
That gives me strength for every passing day;
A glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part,
Yet drives all doubt away:
I stand in Christ, with sins forgiven;
And Christ in me, the hope of heaven!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
To make His will my home.
There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Saviour there!
Through present sufferings, future’s fear,
He whispers ‘courage’ in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.
There is a hope that stands the test of time,
That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave,
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine
When I behold His face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
And every longing satisfied.
Then joy unspeakable will flood my soul,
For I am truly home”
For only hope will help all of us find our way home this Advent season…