I like Advent, it’s one of my favorite church seasons. A time of waiting for Christmas and so much more. The Advent hymns, that we get to sing only at this time of year, seem to me to have a quality of austerity about them, perhaps because they are ancient, some going back to Latin and Greek. Sung for centuries, they link us with the early church, reminding us that we are part of a 2000 year old tradition of people trying to understand the full meaning of this season, of waiting for light in darkness, waiting to celebrate Christmas, but also waiting for Christ’s return, for the salvation of creation. But at any time Christ is near, waiting for us to awaken to his loving presence and invite him into our lives. Just as the window at St. John’s, The Light of the World, shows, he is there, waiting for us to open the door so he may enter and live in our hearts.
I have been wondering lately if hope is a privileged emotion. I came to that question through an interracial dialogue with our campus ministry students. The question which was to wrap up a rich and honest session of sharing was “where do you find hope”? The white students all had answers, perky hopefulness. The African American students were silent.
Hope is a spiritual discipline that is rooted in action. So I stand with the prophet Isaiah, who we hear in the first reading today—“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains will quake at your presence!” I want to engage that mighty God who “works for those who wait for him.” I want God to fix our broken world.
And yet I know that the possibility of hope for all people comes in my “staying awake”, as Jesus provokes us in the Gospel of Mark. I have to be present to opportunities for justice, for actions that make hope possible for all. Hope is not just for Christians, just for white people, just for me. And I can’t be careless or cavalier about it. I have to be responsible for the hope I can generate.
And…I can’t function without hope. I need it in order to get up every morning. So I am not willing to let it go. Instead, I pray to be worthy of it, and to do the work for hope that God gives me to do.