What is a child’s Christmas list but an example of hope on paper? When I was 6, I got to type my Christmas list. Single spaced on an old-fashioned typewriter, who knows how long I sat there, thinking & dreaming & spelling out my wishes. At the bottom of the page I realized I had run out of space, but hadn’t yet put the most important thing I wanted for Christmas: a soccer ball signed by Luke Skywalker. (Yes.) I had loaded the paper at a slight slant and only had room to fit a few words as my typing went diagonally off of the bottom of the page.
Now I coach my kids on making their own lists – it makes it easy for us to get Dante to practice spelling and handwriting. But what he is really practicing is hope. He takes time to think about the future and about his unique desires for the future. It is self-centered hope, to be sure, but he is practicing. Hope takes a lot of energy, though, as well as focus. Hope isn’t easy.
Christmas presents are a grand practice of hope. One of the biggest ways adults practice is in the giving of gifts – because most likely there IS a certain response we are hoping for.
We hope that they will really enjoy the moment of unwrapping, that they will hold up the gift in delight and say, “Wow, this is great!” That they will put it somewhere special and use it soon.
Our hope is practiced when we wait and watch for the signs of joy and appreciation. We put energy and focus into it, and it really matters to us that our hopes be fulfilled.
And of course, this kind of hope is but a small example of the deeper hope that underlies Christmas, the season of hope and anticipation. God has given a promise to care for God’s beloved creation; throughout Hebrew Scripture, God promises salvation for God’s people. In Advent, we celebrate the dual promises of Christ’s birth (of God becoming physically human) and Christ’s return – that Christ will come again to physically transform our reality into the ultimate Kingdom of love, peace, joy, and of course Hope – but hope transformed into a Trust that takes no energy or focus, hope that is simply a part of being in the promised Kingdom.
Imagine a Christmas that didn’t take energy of focus – wouldn’t that be a miracle! (Are you tired yet from cleaning and planning and shopping and trying to remember all the details?) For now, we practice Hope as we prepare for a holiday that is a sign of God’s ultimate promise. Merry Christmas and a Hopeful Advent to you!