Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Absurdity of Hope in Week One

On the close of Advent, week 1:

Anna Mgaloblishvili: Butterfly
oil on canvas, 110 × 85 cm, 1996
The Gift of Hope
"It is currently said that hope goes with youth, and lends to youth its wings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is pre-eminently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged; God has kept that good wine until not. It is from the backs of the elderly gentlemen that the wings of the butterfly should burst."
-- G.K. Chesterton, excerpted from Charles Dickens: Last of the Great Men
We lit the candle every night, prayed together, squinted in the darkness to read the Scripture, the prayers.  We made the sign of the cross by candlelight, hoping that all we'd said and heard would be mysteriously Spirit-sealed within us until we met around the table again.

We also yawned, wished we could hurry up and get back to television/homework/bed.  We bent our heads in confession, blurted out apologies, kept others in.  In the middle of it all, we giggled at the often-absurd mixed in with the everyday ordinary.

In the same way, we talked about the absurdity of hope.  Made lists of things we hoped for, checked the list twice and settle on one we really, really, really hoped would happen soon.  We prayed our hopes, listened for the Father's ideas about our hopes.  Asked him to make our hopes match up with His. 

Because really isn't everything about the hope of Advent a teensy bit absurd?  A baby King, a virgin mother,  a stable throneroom?  The incarnation makes shepherds into royal guests and barn animals into silent midwives.  So why not, make our ordinary, daily bric-a-brac a reason to give thanks to the God of all comfort, the Giver of every good gift, the Consuming Fire within the common bush?  

 And so we gave thanks for the ordinary, everyday gifts that we often overlook.  We said one word prayers and listened for the comfort of a silent God-With-Us, sitting among us in our own version of a hillside cave.  We turned hope into a word and did our best to not forget what we need, as certainly our Emmanuel would not forget.  This is our hope and our salvation.

Advent Prayer

In our secret yearnings
we wait for your coming,
and in our grinding despair
we doubt that you will.
And in this privileged place
we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than do we
and by those who despair more deeply than do we.
Look upon your church and its pastors
in this season of hope
which runs so quickly to fatigue
and in this season of yearning
which becomes so easily quarrelsome.
Give us the grace and the impatience
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
to the edges of our fingertips.
We do not want our several worlds to end.
Come in your power
and come in your weakness
in any case
and make all things new.
-- Walter Brueggeman, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

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