Today’s post is by my amazing friend, Jocelyn. I am so thankful to her for sharing her wisdom and her heart with us.
If you’re anything like me you ended 2019 with a list of goals you wanted to accomplish, things you were looking forward to, and a sense of hope that the dawn of a new year brings.
…only to watch it all crash and burn. For most of us, this year didn’t exactly turn out the way we’d planned.
My calendar went from teeming with life to a bunch of red Xs: postponed, canceled, disrupted.
So as we come to the end of 2020, I’ve found myself feeling a tad gun shy on making plans for 2021. Of course I have dreams of what life will hold when things go back to “normal”, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t know if it’s even reasonable to do my usual list of goals and plans for next year.
Wrapped up in my hesitation is a question: is it foolish to hope next year could be different?
It’s not lost on me that the end of the calendar year is actually the beginning of the Liturgical year, marked by the season of Advent. Advent is the time of waiting as we look forward to the birth of Christ at Christmas. Advent is celebrated the four Sundays before Christmas, each with a theme on which to reflect.
The first Sunday is Hope. We’re invited to remember the writings of the prophet Isaiah, who looked forward to the One they were waiting for; a Messiah who would set all the things wrong in this world aright.
What does it mean for us that the first week of the first season in the Church calendar, which is also one of the last weeks before a new calendar year, is one in which we would center the word hope?
So, is it foolish to hope?
If I’m being honest, maybe it is. It probably is.
But it’s also necessary.
to hope is to believe that tomorrow will comethat it has the potential to be better and that it’s worth sowing seeds today that will be harvested in the future.
Hope isn’t naive. It’s not about some sort of toxic good vibes only optimism. Oh no, Advent hope is much more subversive than that.
Victor Frankl was a German psychologist who endured terrible suffering and loss during the Holocaust. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences in the concentration camp. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he writes that hope is necessary for survival. He says that he could predict when one of his fellow prisoners was going to start declining in health and die—based on the whether they gave up hope of a meaningful future. Hope keeps us alive.
So it seems fitting that this season of Advent, in which we await the birth of, and the someday return of, the Sustainer of all Life, we would be reminded that the gift of Hope is part of how Christ sustains us.
I like to think of having hope by imagining myself planting seeds in a garden. Sowing seeds might just be the best picture of hope I can think of. So much has to go right for that little seed to make it, the odds feel so stacked against it. Yet we’re instructed in the face of that reality to get out there and just… sow more.
In the show Ted Lasso on Apple TV, head coach Ted Lasso takes a British soccer-ism and turns it on its head. Premier League fans say, “it’s the hope that kills you”—the hope of believing your team could win or somehow overcome the odds against them.
The idea is that if you never hope you never have to be disappointed.
But Ted lasso says: it’s the lack of hope that kills you.
Refusing to dream because it might not come true just kills a dream twice.
What would it look like to dig deep and dare to hope again?
What would you dare to hope for?
Perhaps it’s a relationship that’s been strained by distance, politics, or shared history. Maybe it’s a hope that this year where so much has been lost could be redeemed in some way, that you could find meaning in the upside down way we spent our days—professionally, relationally, or whatever other aspirations you’d had that got put on hold. Maybe it’s a hope that a God who has felt so far away would give you a sign that he hasn’t left you high and dry. He’s been here the whole time, right by your side.
Because in the end that’s what the Advent season is all about. We remember that God “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1, the message version). God chose to inject God-self into the messiness and chaos of your neighborhood. Other translations use the language of “dwelling”—the image is of God pitching a tent and taking up residence in the middle of your life.
If that feels like a far away picture for you these days, find a way to make that truth tangible. Light a candle and name it your hope candle. As you light it, recognize God’s presence at home with you. It’s been there all along and it ain’t going anywhere.
What could be more Hope Full than that?
Jocelyn Peirce is a creative and entrepreneurial leader who is passionate about helping individuals, teams, and organizations experience real and lasting transformation. Jocelyn is an ordained minister who also ministers through coaching, writing, and speaking.
Jocelyn and her husband, Matt, live outside Boston with their delightful two-year-old daughter, Eleanor and newest addition, Ruby June. You can connect with her at jocelynpeirce.com or on Facebook/insta @jocelyn.Peirce.coaching