Appleton, WI

Nov. 29: In Joy & Hope

In Joy and Hope

Two gifts on my bookshelf are the reflections of Ann Weems, who has written Kneeling in Bethlehem to accompany seekers journeying through the Advent and Christmas seasons, and a companion volume, Kneeling in Jerusalem, for the Lent and Easter seasons.

Here is her selection titled “Yesterday’s Pain”:

Some of us walk into Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It’s not that we don’t know better;
it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way to Bethlehem,
will you give us a hand?

Our yesterdays in the season of a global pandemic have been upsetting to many people. Put yourself in the place of tens of thousands of people across our land who will be missing during the Christmas season a loved one who has died, especially from the coronavirus. It pierces my heart to think that we may have saved some of our dear family members and friends if we would have had a national concerted, consistent plan to address this dangerous virus.

So many of our sisters and brothers will experience food deprivation during this holy season. I am confident that many compassionate citizens and organizations will come to their aid. Perhaps you and I can make a difference as well.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to celebrate Christmas in a refugee camp somewhere in our world. These are usually not pleasant places as people hold on for dear life to a dream for a better life. Everyone of us, as members of the human family, have a right to find a home where peace and security are assured. Let us remember to pray for the children living in these difficult situations.

Advent is a promise that our world and our lives can get better. Jesus, God’s Love made visible, was born into an unwelcoming place yet there was the brilliance of the light of hope and the hope-filled song of the angels announcing the prospect of peace for all people.

In the Middle Ages, it was a common practice to place a small chunk of wood into a full bucket of well water. This simple tactic kept the water from sloshing over the sides of the pail while carrying the water back home.

Advent reminds us to put Jesus at the center of our lives. During this holy season, we will be reflecting together on the human cry, “Come, Lord Jesus, our Stillness in the Chaos!” There is great strength in petitioning Jesus to place on our hearts his precious gift of stillness. When we disengage for a moment from the uncertainties and anxieties of our days, we can find hope and healing in the arms of Jesus. We can recognize people in our midst who have placed the Peace of Jesus into their hearts. They reorient us to the reality that no darkness can snuff out the light of love and that all divisions can give way to harmony, if we but trust enough.

Interestingly, the last words of the Christian Scriptures (that is, the New Testament) as found in Revelation, verse 20b – 21, are “Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord be with all.”

Twenty-one centuries later that cry remains our deepest prayer. Come, Lord Jesus! Still our anxious hearts! Come, Lord Jesus! Make our homes your dwelling place! Come, Lord Jesus! Make our nation a land that offers hope to all people! Come, Lord Jesus! Make our world one peaceful family!

Advent reminds us that we always have reason to hope!

Father Bill +