Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent, the beginning of the church’s year is a time of preparation. A whole year stretches before yet to be written on. What will it bring? Will I be prepared to meet the challenges and share the joys?
Today, our advent wreath is prepared for the lighting of the first candle at Eucharist. The first purple candle which signifies hope. The other four, for later weeks, are the candles of peace, joy, love and the white Christ candle.
Hope, the first word to linger with this advent. I been thinking a lot about hope and what it means. The dictionary interprets hope as “a feeling of expectation” and “a desire for a certain thing to happen.” My thinking has been more about what do people hope for? What is their main need? Need drives hope.
Yesterday, Andy and I went to the cinema to watch Boy Erased. A thought provoking film depicting the true story of a teenager struggling with the reactions of his family to him being gay. I would urge all to go and see it if possible. It is quite disturbing as it showed the boy going through conversion therapy. Over the years, a gradual change occurs in the family led by his mother as she slowly emerges from the bonds of patriarchy.
The young man’s hope was for acceptance of who he was. His desire was that his family love him rather than change him into some idealistic image of the perfect son. Perhaps acceptance is a big hope for everyone.
Today’s gospel lectionary (Luke 21:25-36) is part of apocalyptic literature. It talks about fear, foreboding and distress. It continues by urging the reader to note all these awful things as signs that the realm of God is near.
Personally, I think that these verses were included in the gospel to give hope to a people under dire persecution. They were in a time of fear, distress and imminent death. They needed to hear that everything was in control to give them the strength and courage to go through the persecution. Together with the hope of better things to come. A doorway to a future. Perhaps one of the best depictions of that doorway is in C.S. Lewis’ final Narnia novel, The Last Battle.
Yet both the film and the reading made me realize how much strength and courage is linked with hope. It is the hope of a better future that gives one strength to face the now.
The text also urges the reader to look to nature and see the signs portrayed therein. It feels a very Celtic thing to do. So, this first Sunday of advent I look out of my window to see signs of hope. I see squirrels piling pine cones in hope of food to survive the cold months. I see trees showing the beginnings of buds in hope of the bloom to come. I see the clouds looking heavy with snow ready to give a brand new, clean, untrodden path.
May this week be filled with hope for all.