Advent: Hope

As I sit here, watching season two of the Crown, (episode two is starting – I am beside myself about this boys club ballerina situation), I struggle to think of a recent occasion that had me giddy with anticipation. Maybe it’s the times we’re living in. Maybe it’s that I am not easily excitable, in the first place. Maybe I’ve allowed myself to turn a bit cynical. In recent days, the birth of my second baby tops the list. I couldn’t wait to see his sweet face, and hold him against my chest, and look into his eyes as he feeds… We were more than eager to welcome him into our family, and our home.

Still, his entrance into the chaos of our own adjusting, felt less than ideal. But he came, and his coming, sweetened our settling. His arrival felt like a light on our path, hope in our season, love, grace and goodness, innocence and purity, in the center of our gritty, beautiful, brutal existence.

I think part of maintaining a healthy expectation, is to establish consistent rhythms in life, stable moments to return to, when there is transition, or loss, or disappointment, or relational breakdowns. This season, for us, we have decided (with a little help from a friend who is encouraging us), to be present in the space of celebrating Advent. With daily readings, and a weekly focus, I find myself resisting the tug of consumerism and anxiety, hurry and busy, this season presses upon us, and entering a more restful, peaceful space with Christ, and with others. Every Sunday completes a week of Advent, and I have plan to write at the end of each week.

Today completes a week’s focus on hope, and while Cody and I are new to any sort of liturgical calendar, we have a desire to grow in our rhythm of life, in every capacity, so we’re learning more about what it means to follow the ancient pathways of those who have gone before us. The word Advent means “coming”, and this is the time of expectation for the coming of Christ, who like my sweet baby, entered our world when circumstances were less than ideal. There is violence and chaos and greed. There is political uproar, racism, sexism, (all the “isms”). There is certainly inequity, economic difficulty and polarization, pain, heartbreak and disappointment. His own parents are refugees on the run, and He is born in a stable, because labor will not be delayed when it is time.

His coming was and is our hope, an offering from our Father in heaven, that is our strength and stability in a world always changing. Jesus is a gift from God to say, I see you; I love you. In this world filled with violence and poverty, greed and pain, I offer you hope and love, joy and peace. I am with you. You are not alone.

The wild man in the wilderness, John, who prepares the way for the arrival of the Messiah Jesus, says, He must increase, but I must decrease. John, comes first in the story of Jesus, and as prophets do, makes us all uncomfortable with his radical message of repentance. Change! he shouts, with his every word and deed, and because we are human beings, we cling to all we have, with all our might, and we buck against the challenge to change. What is current, convenient and comfortable is preferred, guarded and revered. We finding ourselves resisting the call to decrease, but it is the only path to change.

Walter Brueggemann, in his book, Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent, says this:

Decrease what is old and habitual and destructive in your life so that the new life-giving power of Jesus may grow large with you. Decrease what is greedy, what is frantic consumerism, for the increase of simple, life-giving sharing. Decrease what is fearful and defensive, for the increase of life-giving compassion and generosity. Decrease what is fraudulent and pretense, for the increase of life-giving truth-telling in your life, truth-telling about you and your neighbor, about the sickness of our society and our enmeshment in that sickness. Decrease what is hateful and alienating, for the increase of healing and forgiveness, which finally are the only source of life.

Change. Repent. Leave behind what is comfortable, to inherit what is good. Hope remains to remind us this is possible. Bruggemann goes on to write:

Advent is not a time of casual waiting. It is a demanding piece of work. It requires both the outrageousness of God and the daily work of decreasing so that Jesus and God’s vision of peace may increase. 

What is your hopeful expectation, dear friend? What is your heartbreak and pain? What hurt do you have that requires healing? What do you want to decrease, that He might increase in your life?

May the love of Jesus fill every void, may the peace of Christ rest on your weariness, and may hope encourage and demand you to change.

You are loved, dear friend, and you are not alone.