Last week in an interview a radio host asked me if I thought the world at large had slipped beyond hope (I forget the exact wording) … and I’m not very good at coming up with profound answers on the spot. But based on the mood of our genial exchange about Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth, the book I was explaining to him, I had to say No. It’s not too late.
I felt wrapped in the energy of reaching out across barriers of time and space—and a surge of unanticipated grace in the moment.
I said something about perceiving sparks of connection being passed or shared, person to person, that give me hope that all is not lost. In my mind’s eye, these were nearly visible: convictions that a candle flame loses nothing by passing on its fire to another candle.
I wasn’t thinking of our imminent celebration of Advent One, just days away. But it is no surprise that such concepts are hidden deep within me after years of exposure to Christian thought and worship.
Now today is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the Christian Year … and I feel these stirrings of hope again in homey, tangible ways as we have lit the first candle on our Advent wreath.
Through the years, the church’s liturgical seasons have received me and enveloped me, until it is now impossible to imagine my journey without its recurring cycles and their various lessons, small and profound.
Every year the experience is different, and I find myself absorbing the same texts of Scripture but from a new vantage point. This year, when we will not be traveling to visit family, but will celebrate with our local worship community, I find myself going within for solace.
I do anticipate the sparks of joy that will be passed among us, in a year without the scenario of our small family circle around a fireplace and the incomparable hugs of my adult children.
But every year has its parameters (as does the wreath itself)—and its gifts, the designed and the unexpected. And each of us plays our part when the time comes.
What manifests now as sparks of hope and acceptance in these days of waiting and praying will inevitably flame out to light the world:
“O Christmas Sun! What holy task is thine! To fold a world in the embrace of God!” —Guy Wetmore Carryl.
In these early Advent weeks we are still adjusting to shorter days with darkness descending about the time we gather for our evening meal. The spot of candlelight on our table helps to dispel the gloom of encroaching night.
Yet even with just the two of us, there is communion and warmth, sharing of our day’s events, rejoicing in each other’s company through the waning days.
So I think my answer to the interviewer tapped deeply into what I truly believe about our human dilemma, our seeming aloneness, our grasping at threads of understanding and acceptance of each other. There IS hope, and we hold it in our own hands and hearts. It is up to us to activate it.
So, though only one candle has been lit on our little wreath for now, I still remember the sun as we await the Son—and can return to my tasks and rests and understandings in its Light.