“My heart shall sing of the day you bring
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near
and the world is about to turn.Canticle of the Turning
Today is the first Sunday of Advent and our Advent wreaths take center stage. There is no wrong way to create these wreaths as long as you end up with four and sometimes five candles. Traditionally the candles are three purple and one pink, but some people add a white Christ or Christmas candle. Now-a-days I see more wreaths with three blue candles instead of the purple. The change in color is due to the realization that Advent, unlike Lent, is not a penitential season. Instead it is the season of expectations.
The candles have names: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Today we light the candle of Hope. It is appropriate that the first candle is hope because Advent is all about hope. In the darkest time of the year, even as it continues to get darker, we continue to light the candles, but it all starts with hope. Hope is stronger than wishing. Hope is trusting that something beautiful and awesome can still come into this world and is even growing in the darkness.
Hope is open-ended, unlike wishing, which is tied to things we wish for — a job, a baby, a house, success, good weather, time off, a new car, and that special something. Wishing is our desire to control our future and can carry the fear of disappointment. Hope is our trust that good things will happen, even as we let go of believing we can control the future.
The year 2020 has been a year of darkness and reveals how much we need the season of Advent, a season of hope. In fact, the last several years have torn asunder the veil that covered the dark underbelly of this country we love. We’ve discovered we are a country that can separate children from their parents, put them in cages, and have no plans for reuniting these broken families. We are forced to admit that a large percentage of our citizens are comfortable and even supportive of racist structures and see nothing wrong with the killing of black or brown people for little or no reason. We are saddened to realize that many people are careless of the lives of those who are most vulnerable to the raging pandemic and can’t be bothered to take the simplest precautions — wear a mask. We recognize that climate change is real, but we do not want to sacrifice anything to avoid further destruction of our planet.
Advent brings hope that, with God’s grace, humanity can do better. We can restore our compassion for one another and refashion our societies to be better for all of us. We can remember that we are part of Creation and seek to stop human destruction of what God has created and care for the other creatures who share this earth with us. We Christians believe that God has come down to earth, lived with us, and through the Holy Spirit, has remained to restore Creation to its original blessing. Christ has come to us as Wisdom — Light — and asks us over and over again to follow this light and learn to create communities of justice, peace, and love.
We live in the not-yetness of God’s final plan for Creation. We live in hope. It is up to us to join God in the work of making this a better world. Hope says we can.
My beloved ones, never let go of hope.