A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
It’s hard not to think about my time as an expectant mother as we begin Advent. Advent — which literally means “arrival” — is a season of anticipation. Waiting on the arrival of our first baby is one of the most memorable times of my life. We read up on birth and breastfeeding, we prepared a space, and we planned for the family culture and rhythms we wanted to create. We worried too, but mostly we hoped.
And then my thoughts turn to Mary, carrying a tiny, fragile, dependent baby. Carrying Immanuel. Carrying God With Us. Carrying hope.
This has been a hard year to have much hope. I could remind you of the kind of year it’s been and the kind of world we live in, but you already know. You know when you listen to the news in the morning, or read about it at lunch. You know as you look at your partner and spell out each letter of “shooting” and “church” and then quietly say “26 people” as you try and protect your 5 year old from the harshness they’ve been born into.
So then we ask: “Can we find hope in the midst of tragedy and heartache?”
I think the answer is that we do our best to carry hope with us. Sarah Bessey says: “I am in exile in this fallen and broken world, here to plant gardens and to prepare for the coming day when all things will be renewed and restored, to tend the earth and to humanity— and my place in the world — with tender ferocity. We are participating in the life of Christ.”
It has been said that the Kingdom of God is both now and not yet. Believers give us hope as they live it out in the “now” and wait for the “not yet”. The Kingdom of God is single women fostering and adopting babies who need safe homes. It’s pastors continuing to serve their tiny church even when money is tight. It’s new mothers making phone calls and coordinating donations when a hurricane hits three states away. It’s retired men giving their time to clean up a flooded church. It’s choosing to talk with the cashier and look her in the eye and listen. It’s smiling at your child when they walk into the room. It is the young virgin that said “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” God’s people give us hope when it feels hard to find.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone
— Isaiah 9:2