Advent is here! It is the season of anticipation before Christmas, as well as the start of the new liturgical year. Christians celebrate with Advent calendars, Advent wreaths, Jesse Trees, and – at least in my experience – many, many repetitions of “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
In some churches, the four weeks of Advent are each given a theme: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. This first week of Advent, we celebrate hope:
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in the Lord.”
I need the Lord’s hope very much right now. Our world seems to be increasingly chaotic, frighteningly greedy, and profoundly unkind, and I sometimes wonder how much more we will stray from “loving our neighbor” as God commands. I see so much self-interest, so many people seeing anyone different from themselves as “other,” so little willingness to listen or to work together.
I firmly believe that we are meant to live in interdependence, so putting the interests of my family, my country, my “people” (whether race, class, gender, age, or any other group) or my beliefs over those of anyone else – especially over the vulnerable – just seems wrong. (I realize completely that if I were truly living that out, I would sell what I have and give the money to the poor. I’m not saying that I’m doing it right, only that I see it as the ideal to strive for.) We are the ones who need to make the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord visible to the world. I have hope that God will give us the strength to do so.
On a more personal level, I need the Lord’s hope to deal with my health. I’m in the process of being diagnosed with yet another rare health condition (which is causing a “hole” in the vision of my right eye), and they’ve recently discovered that I’m suffering from iron overload and have dangerously high cholesterol. I’m pretty freaked out, for obvious reasons, but also angry at myself and my oh-so-fallible body. Given this, I’m frustrated with my inability to stick to better habits of sleep, nutrition, and exercise. I know what I need to do, I know that I need to do it, and yet I don’t. Sometimes I think it will take an Act of God to shake me up and turn me around, so I certainly hope one is coming!
I’d love to hear from you. What do you hope for?