Week One of the Advent Season:  HOPE

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here; until the Son of God appear.  Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel…

These words are softly sung as the lighting of the first candle is completed; Advent has begun.

The Advent wreath or “crown” is the traditional centerpiece of the liturgical Christian calendar in the Western Church.  The circular nature, representing infinite love and the promise of eternal life, visually symbolizes the powerful reminders of the Advent season.  Advent, from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” and “arrival,” is a four-week period prior to Christmas.  It is a time to ponder, reflect, and prepare.  As the days shorten and darkness prevails during the winter months, this first Advent candle symbolizes HOPE.  Typically called the “Prophecy Candle” (in remembrance of the prophets who foretold the birth of Christ), this light represents the expectation of HOPE in the coming Messiah… Emmanuel…God with us…

But how can we HOPE as we begin to celebrate and prepare if we are truly paying attention to the world around us these days?  How do we share HOPEfilled seasonal greetings when our hearts are breaking, our relationships are splintering, our words are carelessly flung like stones, and so much more?

I humbly argue:  We must celebrate and prepare in HOPE because we ARE paying attention. Life isn’t fair.  Fair is not equal.  We don’t get to have the good without the grief.  Not everything is as it should be. My list goes on and on, but there is reason to HOPE and believe, my friends!  Advent matters.  HOPE and Advent are critically needed; they keep our eyes, ears, arms, minds, hearts, and souls wide open to everything and everyone around us.  HOPE and Advent hold the truth of what is up against the truth of what was and what will be in profound ways within all our lives.

So here’s your Christmas Question to ponder:  How will you challenge yourself to share the light of HOPE with others in the coming week? 

For my friends celebrating the first night in the Festival of Lights known as Hanukkah, “Chag Sameach!”  Regardless of your faith (or none at all), may we all find ways to share HOPE in the coming days.  As Desmond Tutu noted,  “HOPE is being able to see there is light despite all of the darkness…”

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