Yesterday was the beginning of Advent, the lead up to the big shindig: Christmas. Some people have been barely containing their excitement and now they can let it out, like this guy…
Most of us are probably a little more subdued about it.
Even so, Christmas receives a lot of attention. Wherever you may find yourself in relation to it, unless you plan to go on vacation to a very remote island, you’re going to find it hard to avoid for the next month.
Something that receives less attention, and which has been less commercialized is the season of Advent. Advent can be a beneficial time for all of us. It doesn’t have to even be connected to the sweet little 8lb baby Jesus laying in a manger wearing golden fleece diapers (did you see Talladega Nights like I did?), although the source of most of our modern Advent traditions come from a Christian practice.
Here’s the thing about Advent: it can be used as a way of resetting ourselves and zeroing the white balance (so to speak) on our priorities.
Each week has a different focus, and each one is something that most of humankind can get behind. Hope, love, joy, peace — these are at the heart of Advent, and I’d argue they’re at the heart of what it means to be human. Each of these values alone is powerful enough, but teamed together they’re transformative.
Or at least I hope so.
So, with the intention to post on each of the Advent themes, let’s turn our attention to hope.
I think hope is a little like waiting for the mist to clear.
You can be walking along, your path one you’ve been on before, and then all of a sudden everything’s different. You can’t see the same vistas, and the air feels different, even smells different. You keep walking, just putting your foot down and trusting that the path hasn’t undergone the same shift. You know enough to be patient. You know enough to remember that this has happened before though it was so long ago it’s almost out of your memory.
You have reason to hope, even though the circumstances don’t communicate hopefulness.
Sometimes the mist clears and you’re back on your merry way, the change temporary, merely a blip.
Other times, the mist clears and you find the landscape has morphed into something new and not entirely pleasant.
Ultimately the outcome doesn’t matter, because hope is the act of believing in the face of uncertainty. In some of the worst circumstances, it’s the possibility of change, the possibility of miracles, the possibility of a positive resolution that gives us strength to push forward. On the one hand, that has the potential to blind us to reality. Blind hope doesn’t always yield helpful perspective. But the presence of hope when things look dire, even just a glimmer, can give us just enough courage to get through to the next step…and then the next…and the next.