Monday morning is foggy; the fog so thick, the mountains on the horizon have disappeared from view. Advent is the liturgical season that started yesterday in the Christian tradition. The period starts on a Sunday and then leads up to December 25. Advent is seen as a time of waiting and originally was as penitent as Lent.
On the first Sunday of Advent, I listened all morning to different worship services from different people I love. Some were churches where I was a member in the past. Then, my current church Holy Cross. Then, I found as many of my church music friends that I could and listened to their anthems or preludes. They all had wonderful messages that spoke to me of the first word of Advent for this week, hope.
Hope is certainly something we need during a global pandemic. Yet, every time that I think of the word, “hope” I want to always be reminded that the word is not a Bandaid for healing. That like love, the word is much deeper than some platitude. Nikki Stern, in her book Little Doses of Hope, pointed out that need beautifully. Though I read the book many years ago, her message central message of hope shines through and reminds me:
“Whether we’re the largest, smallest, most or least significant thing in the universe makes for a marvelous late-night discussion. It’s not relevant to how we live in the here and now. We need to look around, take measure of ourselves, and decide what we can do and how much of it we do to improve our lives and the lives of as many others as we can reach.”
~Nikki Stern, Hope In Small Doses
On Mondays, I take a long trip to the allergist to get shots. Leaving in the drizzly, foggy day, my only hope at that time was for the next day to really be a snowy day. We haven’t had snow here yet and we usually get some snow on Halloween or thereabout. As I walked into the drizzle, I noticed that mixed in with the mist and drizzle were the tiniest of flakes, more like dust motes. My heart thrilled with joy. Snow always makes me and the dog joyous.
On the long ride, I am free to marvel at the wonders of nature and yet, I wonder what HOPE means to us as we face a world forever changed by the pandemic? I ride in the AppalCart SUV, our local transportation service, masked. A plastic shower curtainesque sheet between me and the driver. What does hope mean in such a world where we cannot touch one another and in such intimate settings as a vehicle, have to be careful even in talking? Where is hope then?
On the way home, I think of how much of a blessing it has been to be able to hear our worship service in my home. Wonder if perhaps this year, after so many years of grieving, I could hope in a holiday again such as Christmas. Yet, what is the holiday if I cannot visit my home congregation and share in the joyous music and the wonder, the beauty of the season? I get on to social media to look for friends & family, and to see how they are doing. Then, a dear friend posts a lovely photo of her home as she watched HER church on the first Sunday of Advent. I asked her permission to show you the view.
In truth, my friend loves pink and me, not at all. Yet, knowing that pink is also part of the Advent colors, I thought her picture a perfect example of how hope can be in our homes still as we stay at home to protect and love our neighbors.
The snow that started on Monday blossomed into a full snowstorm yesterday. My day was spent painting and keeping a fire going to knock
off the chill. Awakening to a beautiful sunny day, the chill remains but hope shines into my heart. I think about my friends, write to my sister and cousin, remember a wonderful hymn taught to me by my mother that talks of the Wideness of God’s Mercy. My heart is rejoicing.
The world is not perfect. As long as humans are in this world, nothing is perfect. We will and do make mistakes, and yet, it is a wonderful world. The thing we must remember as people of faith is that everything we are and everything we do is about love. This worship, faith, celebration, and tradition is about the love of G-d for humanity and the response we have in gratitude. As I prayed for a way to summarize what was in my heart, an email with this prayer was in my list of things to do for today. A perfect way to end a reflection, poetry! The Christian tradition likes to focus decorations on angels during the holiday too. Remember though, more often than not, G-d touches us through angels such as you…the ones with human hands and human hearts. Hope is here and it is in you.
Touched by an Angel
by Maya Angelou (b. 1928)
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.*
*https://www.journeywithjesus.net/poemsandprayers/122-touched-by-an-angel” Selected by Dan Clendenin. Posted 30 August 2015.