(while this post won't appear until tuesday, i a writing it on sunday morning as i sit in the home of my wife's sister and everyone else in the house is asleep.) for christians, today is the first sunday in advent. yesterday as i prayed about how to find meaning in this advent season, i sensed a leading to do something for the members of my family each day during advent. perhaps it will be a small gift, a note, or kind action for my wife each day, and for my children i will send a note of encouragement each day. there may be days when i cannot follow through on my intentions, and i won't feel guilty if that is the case, but my desire is to give something extra of myself to those who are dearest to me throughout the season.
in our church, as in many christian churches, we light a special candle in an advent wreath each sunday during advent and have a special liturgy around the lighting of that sunday's candle. this sunday the theme of the liturgy is "hope," so we say that we "light the candle of hope." during my time of prayer and meditation this morning, i focused on hope. in a sense hope removes us from the present and as such can be a means of ignoring the present. it that sense, hope is not a good thing. but hope is a word that conjures up positive thoughts for me. it directs my thinking toward positive transformation, toward a pattern of development that says that the next moment will be even better than the present one because the present moment is so precious, that life is moving in a direction where suffering and want are diminished by actions that grow from hope in a better world.
there is an archaic meaning for the word hope that is related to the concept of trust, as in "Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God" (from psalm 146). in that sense, hope takes on an even more positive meaning. when hope is united with trust, we have a sense that the present and future are one, and our efforts, though faltering, will move us and the world in the right direction so long as our focus is on the right kind of effort, effort that flows from compassion and loving-kindness.
whether you are a christian, an adherent of some other religion, or a follower of no religion, my prayer during this special season is that despair gives way to hope, that hate gives way to love, and that indifference gives way to compassion. may we seek transformation that brings us closer to the denial of our selfish attachments and the surrender of our lives to the well-being of others.