The first week of Advent begins with a humble desire, one that bubbles up from cracks of difficulties and rises within the shadows of hard times. Hope is the candle that we light in the first week of Advent.
The prophets saw in Israel a hope for humanity. This odd gathering of simple people in the wilderness became the vessel for God’s hope. They, and the “us” who would follow, were to be God’s dream offered in new ways with fresh possibilities of unshackled blessings and widened community. Incarnated in Jesus, that hope of old breathed new life into a disillusioned past just as it now can enliven the embers of a darkened present.
Biblical hope, this grand word we claim in Advent’s first week necessitates a response. Like its other three partners in the Advent progression, hope calls out from us not only what can be, but what should be. It summons love into the equation of sacred interaction, it invokes peace as the partner confronting all that is and all that might be; it stands with justice, entices joy, enhances vision, strengthens commitment, enlivens passion, broadens fortitude, deepens courage.
So the hope of Advent offers change to circumstances otherwise mired in complexity, derailed by ignorance or stymied by anger. This biblical hope, this hope that Jesus brings through word, deed and transformation allows the insufficiencies of my life and your life to be joined in a broadened force of glad assurance: we are not alone; we are not without. For there is hope – and in the words of Emily Dickenson:
Hope is the thing with feathers perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all …
May it be so for you. And may this Advent and Christmas season be one that is especially filled with hope.