December 4th: A Little More on Hope and a Good Bit on Mystery

Yesterday’s ponderings may have left you a bit…curious. Particularly that part about “hope” and the way I dissected it.

When I first heard of that Buddhist notion to let go of the particularities we often ascribe to “hope,” I was pretty flustered, too. The Buddhist teacher I learned it from, Pema Chodron, had been helping me (through her writings, not in any personal way) get through a tough transition period in my life.

Her discourse on hope deflated me a bit, if I’m quite honest.

But that was until I realized that I have, indeed, been basing much of my notion of “hope” on very specific hopes, which I’ve come to see goes against the great promise in the idea of hope.

Hope, like the Gospel, cannot just be a good thing for me. It must be universal. And so many of my hopes and dreams were (are?) me-centered.

Advent, this season of hope, is not the season where we believe “anything is possible.” Reserve that notion for the Hallmark Channel, Beloved.

Advent is rather an invitation to sit and wait patiently at the footstep of the unknown to pray, tell stories, sing with “joy and wonder” as the hymn goes, light a candle, and become ever-growingly confident that what will emerge from that shadow will be a tool for good.

I am certainly not saying that you can’t hope, wish, and dream for particular goods for you and your family. I am saying, though, that Advent is not a season that invites you to do that particular thing. Rather, Advent is the season where we trust that the spinning cosmos are barreling toward beauty and not chaos, and we invite ourselves to imagine how that can happen, is happening, will happen, by God.

Today’s song to add to your Advent playlist is actually a hymn to the tune St. Helena, “Unexpected and Mysterious.” I’ve linked a choir singing it (a lovely, if a bit slow for my taste, performance). But the words, oh the words, they’re what invite your attention today, Beloved…especially that last verse:

We are called to ponder myst’ry
And await the coming Christ
to embody God’s compassion
for each fragile human life.
God is with us in our longing
to bring healing to the earth,
while we watch with joy and wonder
for the promised Savior’s birth.

As a final bit of beauty, check out the story behind the writing of this hymn.

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