By: Sarah Cambria
On this first Sunday of Advent, John asked me to speak from a minute or two on what hope means to me as it relates to the Christmas season. I started my reflection with the basics-what is the definition of hope:
The Webster dictionary defines it first as a verb, “To cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true” and then as a noun, “trust, reliance, a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfilment…ultimately faith.”
As I thought about hope during the season of Advent, I was flooded with images, scents, sounds and feelings of Christmas past and present. In fact, there are symbols of hope in almost every Christmas tradition. As a child, the smells of Christmas cookies conjured the feelings of anticipation and excitement. The stars and angels on our Christmas trees remind us of the hope that the star of wonder brought to the shepherds and the wise men and the angels’ miraculous news. The star also gives us hope that if we follow Jesus and try to live in his example, we can also trust in our own internal North Star and that we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be. The images of angels evoke feelings of optimism in tomorrow. The candles in our windows remind that even in the darkest time of the year, the light of love will always overcome the darkness of hate, fear and in the darkest times of our life. The evergreen reflects that with the birth of Jesus, we also all received the gift of everlasting life. The images of baby Jesus in the manager and all the carols we sing about that miraculous and humbling scene of baby Jesus in the manger conjures hope in the world we can all create if, like Jesus, we lead with love, acceptance and care for others.
In these images, scents, sounds and symbols of Christmas, we can reach across the centuries and be present in that manager and feel awe in that baby who came to teach us to love in this life and promised to love us for eternity. I pray that throughout the next four weeks-when as we know, at times feel hectic and stressful, we all experience moments of hope-individually, with our families and friends, as a community and as a larger world. It’s the collective hope and faith which makes this time of year so unique, special and powerful. Wishing each of you all the hope of the season.