“Sometimes hope must be sung.”
Truth. Hope is a powerful, yet a distant thing for many of us. In this season of Advent, we are invited to train ourselves to live in hope. And what better way to live in hope than to live in song. Sing a joyful noise in hope. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Sing like the song bird greets the morning sunrise, in hope of the new day. Sing with joyful hope and let your song lift in praise to God.
–quote from Keep Watch With Me, An Advent Reader for Peacemakers, by Claire Brown and Michael T McRay.
This Advent season, I am journeying with a number of authors who contributed to Keep Watch With Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers. It’s a book filled with daily reflections about what it means to be a peacemaker, while being one who longs for Christ and for the fulfillment of hope and the coming of Christ’s kingdom of peace.
Hope is hard. But, hope is necessary. A world without hope is dead. The coming of Christ, both in the past at his birth, and in the future at his second coming, promise us the coming of hope in our world…both in the here and now, and in the kingdom to come. We cannot know how or when this will happen. But we hope.
Advent is all about waiting. It is about patience, expectation, and longing. We wait in hope for the arrival of something better than what we have now. This is a joyful hope. But Advent is about ache too, because longing and waiting are also painful experiences.
One thing that brings me immense joy is knowing that others also are longing and waiting in hope for something better. We are not alone. We are blessed with community and rich traditions that bring us comfort and hope. “What choice do we have but to hope? The alternative is death.”
It is hard to hope in a world filled with seemingly endless hatred and violence. But, what else can we do but hope?
I wish you a blessed and joy-filled Advent season, even in the midst of a world longing for something better.
–Quotations from Keep Watch With Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers, by Claire Brown and Michael T McRay.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding.
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say;
“Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”
Wakened by the solemn warning,
let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
shines upon the morning skies.
Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
comes with pardon down from heaven;
let us all, with tears of sorrow,
pray that we may be forgiven;
that when next he comes with glory,
and the world is wrapped in fear,
with his mercy he may shield us,
and with words of love draw near.
Honor, glory, might, and blessing
to the Father and the Son,
with the everlasting Spirit,
while eternal ages run.
–Words: Latin, sixth century; trans. Edward Caswall (1814-1878) as “Hark, an awful voice is sounding”. Murray’s Hymnal of 1852 changed the first line to “a thrilling voice” and Hymns Ancient & Modern of 1861 altered the text further into its present form.
–Tune: MERTON, William Henry Monk (1823-1889); descant Alan Gray, 20th century
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
I’ve been really distraught these last few weeks. After the results of the election, I was angry, confused, scared, disgusted, hopeless. I was mad at God. I felt like we had been abandoned. That God’s guiding hand let go of us and evil has taken hold of our country.
Talks of white supremacists entering positions of power in our country. Talks of closing our border to immigrants and refugees based solely on their religion. Talks of making Muslims register their religion with the government. Hate crimes are on the rise. Blatant disregard for the basic principles on which our country was founded are being disregarded for the narrow and self-serving view of a small group of narrow-minded people whose primary driver is fear.
But I find myself continually turning to God for strength. God is always there…in our pain and in our joy, in our sureness and in our confusion, in our strength and in our weakness. It’s okay to be mad at God. It’s okay to need a break now and then. But in the end, God is always with us in the midst of all our struggles and all of our celebrations.
I find myself singing this song in my head a lot lately. It brings me strength and confidence that in spite of the failures our human society might make, there is still a spark of hope within each of us. Let us never give up on that spark of hope that is within each of us…even those of us who may exhibit darkness or evil actions toward others.
Within our darkest night you kindle a fire that never dies away, that never dies away.