“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
–Red, “The Shawshank Redemption”
“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.
–Emily Dickenson, #254
2 The thing that Isaiah son of Amoz hath seen concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 And it hath come to pass, In the latter end of the days, Established is the mount of Jehovah’s house, Above the top of the mounts, And it hath been lifted up above the heights, And flowed unto it have all the nations.
3 And gone have many peoples and said, `Come, and we go up unto the mount of Jehovah, Unto the house of the God of Jacob, And He doth teach us of His ways, And we walk in His paths, For from Zion goeth forth a law, And a word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.
4 And He hath judged between the nations, And hath given a decision to many peoples, And they have beat their swords to ploughshares, And their spears to pruning-hooks, Nation doth not lift up sword unto nation, Nor do they learn any more — war.
5 O house of Jacob, come, And we walk in the light of Jehovah.’
–Isaiah 2:1-5, Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)
Advent is a funny time of year. There are so many things that are known and unknown, so many things seen and unseen, and sometimes, the wonder of the Incarnation seems right at our grasping fingertips, stuck on the tips of our tongues, just around the corner. It’s a hard concept to hold, this idea of God being made Human. And there’s also a fine line between feeling hope and feeling anticipation. For me, hope seems to be something unfettered, unfiltered, and unsullied by any of the anxiety that seems to also come with anticipation. Hope’s the shot of really smooth bourbon that you only pull out when your dad comes to visit. Anticipation is the shot of tequila you back with salt and lime when you’re about to go to your 20th high school reunion.
Advent is the season that begins the church year. It’s a time when we put up lights and candles, when we read the hope-filled stories of the Prophets, and think about the fullness that Jesus brings, and is bringing, and has yet to bring into the world. We give presents, we eat sweets, we (try, and try, and sometimes succeed) spend sweet time with family and friends, and we sing lots and lots of songs about mangers, and silent nights, and joy to the world. We celebrate the coming of the Light in the midst of the Darkness, we celebrate the warmth of a Savior in the chill of early winter, we remember traditions and make new memories. And there are deep moments of hope, and some frantic moments of anticipation.
I find myself at the beginning of each Advent a little surprised and slightly dismayed that the season has snuck upon me, again. And even though Christmas is great, and all…I find myself wanting to marinate in Advent just a little bit longer than the three purple and one pink candle tell me I can. There is something so soothing about sitting with the hope, about reading from Isaiah (this year) or Jeremiah (…year B, I think…), marveling over the Magnificat, and wondering if I bought the right size sweater for the intended recipient. There is something that feels so warm and sweet about sitting with all that hope, something that makes me want to slow down, and appreciate it. Sure, I love the Baby Jesus, and lighting the big white candle, and singing “Angels from the Realms of Glory”. And I love sharing Christmas traditions with my family. But I love, love, love the hoping, the remembering, the warmth and joy that I gain from just the shear hope of the season.
Jesus came as an impossibly little baby, to do a work of immeasurable love and mercy.
Jesus is present when we are together, when we make Eucharist, when we say our prayers–whether we say them in hope or in anticipation.
Jesus is coming.
Thanks be to God.