After closing the church year with last week’s “In Memoriam” blog, it is time for me to turn my thoughts toward the Advent of Jesus and the theme of hope. On that note I need to let you know how hope-filled the “Meet me at the Bell Tower” event was last Friday. We were a crowd of over 200 people, and local children played and important part on the festivities. Peace, pride, and community collaboration are growing in the most violent neighbourhood of Winnipeg, and this process is being led by young indigenous people who are reclaiming their traditional values. Now that’s a sign of God’s kind of hope!
Why do we start off the church year by celebrating the Advent of Jesus during the tail end of the season of light diminishment in the Northern Hemisphere? It fits with proverbs like “It is always darkest before the dawn,” (first put to print by Thomas Fuller in 1650) but also seems strangely incongruous. Wouldn’t it be easier to think about the Advent season in spring seasons, when the world is waking up? And yet, the Christians I know in the southern hemisphere make less of Christmas celebrations than we do in the north. Perhaps northerners chose this time of year for Advent and Christmas celebrations because we needed its signs of hope to help us thrive in this season of literal darkness.
Be that as it may be, as a writer for denominational resources, I regularly get to think and write about Advent in spring or summer so that the final version reaches others in time for their planning. I’ve found that works quite well. Here’s a story I wrote in May, and which, I hope, local worship teams choose to use across Canada and USA this coming Sunday:
[After settling into an awareness of God’s presence with a sentence such as “God help us quiet our hearts and bodies so we can notice your love around and in us,” tell a story about a plush toy names Revy. For today’s story she could sport several bandages.]
I’d like to introduce you to my friend Revy. I call her Revy because our theme for Advent asks for God’s mystery to be revealed. Revy will have many adventures and learn something about God’s mystery for each of the next six weeks. In today’s story, Revy learns something about hope.
We all get hurt sometimes. Some children, like my friend Revy, get hurt again and again. You can tell that happens because of her bandages. sometimes Revy gets hurt because she falls down on her own. But sometimes she gets hurt because other children push her around on the playground.
It scares Revy when she gets pushed around. It hurts her much more than when she just falls down, because she’s afraid of getting hurt again. So Revy often runs home or hides when other children show up on the playground.
But today, Revy didn’t have to run away. She is really happy today, because a new neighbour has become a real friend; a friend with whom she feels safe and loved. Today her new friend called on her and they ran to the playground together. She likes playing with her new friend because her friend likes her, is gentle, and likes to have fun. This friendship gives Revy hope and helps her be a good friend too.
God wants all of us to live lives that are full of hope. God sent Jesus to give us hope; to help us know that god is working at making the world a more loving and hope-filled place. That’s why we start Advent by learning about God’s hope.
Thank-you, God, for friends who give us hope, even in rough neighbourhoods. Amen.
Have a blessed start to your Advent season.