The Gift of Hope

Here’s an excellent quote from the Advent devotional I’m using:

Hope opens something in the human heart. Like shutters slowly parting to admit a winter dawn, hope permits strands of light to make their way to us, even when we still stand in cold darkness; but home also reveals a landscape beyond us into which we can live and move and have our being. With hope, closely held interior thoughts are gently turned outward; deep desires, long hidden in secret corners of our heart, might be lifted up to the light. At times, hope peels back the edges of our imagination to free what waits underneath – a changed life, a new resolve, a yes pregnant with possibility. In other moments hope dates us to unfold a layer of desire – for relationship, for clarity, for courage.

In the stories and season of Advent, God opens up everything to us through hope born of expectation – expectation that Christ is coming to make all things new. And in the coming of Christ we find the coming of hope, made real in time, space and flesh.

In the midst of a season burdened with misplaced expectations, God still holds out to us that crack of light, the glimmer of dawn – the expectation that never disappoints. The Christ that came to redeem mankind wants to step into our individual life situations. He still longs to restore relationships, heal hearts and meet needs.

What a gift God has given to us in this thing called Hope! And what a gift we can offer to others. There is no better time to offer hope to people than when we celebrate the coming of Hope.

And yet as I thought about all this, it sounded – well, a bit too pie-in-the-sky or something. Hope. How in the world do we offer hope to someone? I think sometimes we overlook the obvious.

Hope is an encouraging word or prayer.

Hope is helping someone envision the life God has for them.

Hope is taking the time to look someone in the eye and ask how their day is going.

Hope is a few coins dropped in the Salvation Army guy’s bucket.

Hope is a shoebox filled with school supplies for a child you’ll never meet.

Hope is a blanket or coat for someone who lives on the street.

To us, these gifts may be insignificant, almost too mundane or easy. To the recipients, it may be an open door, a first glimpse of light. Don’t underestimate those simple gifts of hope we have opportunity to give this season.


Anticipation and an Advent Listen

I’m going through a great little Advent devotional this year entitled Simply Wait: Cultivating Stillness in the Season of Advent. Actually, I ordered it last year but got it too late to enjoy much of it. For this first week, the focus is on the word anticipation, a sense of expectant waiting.

So what I’m wondering is: what do you do to get into the spirit – the waiting spirit that is? Is there anything you do that helps you settle down and get past the commercial fluff and angst, and be reminded of what this season is to be about?

And another Advent question: is it just me late to the party (as usual) or are you finding an increased interest in the celebration of Advent as a major focus of the holiday season? Until about four years ago, I don’t ever remember hearing of such a thing. Do you think (as I do) that it’s a reaction to the emptiness many people are coming to acknowledge that has overshadowed Christmas? Or have you always celebrated Advent?

Anyways, here’s my one thing: I found this CD by City on a Hill several years ago and it’s the first and only Christmas music I listen to until around December 15th, which is when I get around to decorating. Actually it was the artwork that first drew me to it, and the music, a selection of songs by Christian artists Sara Groves, Caedmon’s Call and others, never fails to satisfy.
If you have an MP3 player, you could easily download these tunes from Amazon or iTunes. There will be plenty of time for the traditional holiday tunes and carols; I think you’d find this a heart-stirring and delightfully uplifting change of pace.