When we first began dating, my husband Daniel gave me polished stone with the word "peace" on it. I decided to go to the same store and give him another polished stone with the word "hope" on it.
There was meaning behind the stone I have to Daniel because hope is such an important word for me, such a needed word.
I've dealt with what I would call a low-grade depression for years. Medication has helped lessen the effects, but every so often something will happen that pushes me into a bleak valley. My closest friends and loved ones have seen how I can act- I become quiet. Deep down inside, I can tell you how I feel-despair. Utter despair.
Despair is of course the exact opposite of hope. It's when you think things will never change and when things will always be dark and bleak.
It has only been because of the sweet love of others that I have been able to come out of the valley of despair.
So, when I gave Daniel the stone, it meant a lot. Hope is something I have to hang on to.
Tomorrow begins Advent. Being the grouch that I am, I really don't like the whole consumerization of Christmas, so I focus on Advent. Advent isn't a time to "happy" as those whole "Christmas Spirit" demands, but it ask us to be hopeful, which on a good day, I can muster.
In Christ we have hope. What does that mean? For me, I think it means that we have someone to look forward to; someone that is with us when times are bad and helps us see God's kingdom in the here and now. In Christ we have the future hope when there will be a day when all of God's creation will be healed and as the old song goes, there will be no more cryin', no more dyin'.
This is year has been hard emotionally on me. Seeing a church close is a lot like a death in the family. It makes you wonder what hope there is. I sit here in the great unknown, wondering if I will ever get back into parish ministry.
But I have to have hope. Not hope that I will get what I want, but that God is with me seeing me through. While I no longer have a church to do ministry at, I have been doing more supply preaching than ever before and I do wonder where that will lead. It might lead to something I had never thought of or considered. Maybe all this dreaming to start a church again will lead to something, who knows.
My four year old nephew Issac told us all after the death of his grandfather that "everything will be alright." A cynic like myself could dismiss that, but I can't-he's right. Everything will be alright- not in some sort of fairy tale happy ending, but it will be alright because God is with us in the form of Christ.
Danny Bradfield, a fellow Disciples minister, says that Advent reminds us that hope wins out over fear. He notes:
Every year, I give thanks for Advent, which comes at the darkest time of the year (at least here in the northern hemisphere). There is a lot of darkness in our world and in our lives, and a lot of fear. But Advent brings with it hope. It brings with it the angel's message: "Fear not! I bring you good news of great joy!" And as I begin getting ready for Christmas (we're getting our tree today!), hope grows strong, and fear ... well, fear remains, but as long as I hold on to hope, I know that fear will not triumph. With hope, fear is tamed -- the tiger is tamed -- and, though the journey is long and difficult, I will make it to that distant shore.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.