By The Rev. Julie Goranson
Each year during Advent, our church lights candles marking the anticipation of the coming birth of Christ. It is a beautiful tradition that spans time, denominations, and borders. This year, our church will continue in that beloved tradition – with a small twist. “Hope” is the first candle that we light in Advent. This year all of the remaining candles that we light – Peace, Joy and Love – will be celebrated by viewing these gifts of Advent in the light of hope and with a deepening understanding of hope. Starting Advent with hope as we always do, this year we will explore intrinsic hope, specifically we will together explore the hope that can be found in Peace, Joy and Love, as well as the hope on Christmas Eve of the hope found in the birth of Christ.
In her book “Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times,” Kate Davies shares the following about the idea of intrinsic hope:
Intrinsic hope is different from conventional hope because it is not based on the expectation that life will give us what we hope for. Instead, intrinsic hope is a deep, abiding trust in whatever happens and in the human capacity to respond to it positively. It accepts life just as it is and works with it, whether or not it’s what we want. As one of my students said, “it’s about making the best of any situation and never, ever giving up” (“Intrinsic Hope,” p. 14).
Advent is a time of waiting, preparation and reflection. Christmas and Christmastide are times of celebration and gift-giving. During Advent and Christmas this year we will examine the “Habits of hope” -- intentional practices that have helped [many] foster intrinsic hope. They are: being present, expressing gratitude, loving the world, accepting what is, taking action, and persevering for the long haul” (“Intrinsic Hope”, p. 15).
These habits, or ways of being or understanding, are really gifts we can give ourselves and the world.
So, as we live through THIS Advent, we will look back at the prophet Isaiah, who foretold of hope and justice, at Mary who said “Yes!” to God’s possibility, and to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, who trusted in love and hope, eventually speaking his own prophetic words. Through all of these stories, we will look for hope – both the hope that was sought at that time, and our own hopes today.
The Rev, Steve Garnaas-Holmes has said that hope is not optimistic anticipation, it's trust in what's already true, already here -- that God's creating energy, love, is always at work. In every moment, God is breathing a new world into existence.
- As you anticipate the Advent season of hope, which of the suggested “habits of hope” (being present, expressing gratitude, loving the world, accepting what is, taking action, and persevering for the long haul) resonate with you as ways for discovering and experiencing hope that is already present?
- How might you embody this type of hope during Advent?
- How can intrinsic hope call forth the hope of others in our community?
- Which of the steps for uncovering and nurturing hope would be most challenging for you/your faith community? Why?
May your Advent and Christmas be blessed with hope and peace and joy and love. And especially hope.
The Rev. Julie Goranson is pastor of Grace UCC in Wausau.