Open your heart: Live hope this holiday

By Rev. Cynthia Espeseth, St. Hilda-St.Patrick | Dec 12, 2012

In my tradition of Christian faith and worship, the four weeks before Christmas is Advent. A time of expectant hope and waiting.

For centuries the Christian church has paid particular attention to the time before we celebrate Christ’s birth. We are intentional about our waiting in the way we say our prayers, in scripture reading, in our lives.

There is deep sacredness in waiting, because it is in waiting that we live hope.

Vaclav Havel was the first Czechoslovakian president after the non-violent revolution that separated that country from the oppression of the USSR.

He was also a poet, and he wrote these words about hope: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

If I were to define the hope of Advent, it would be to use those words. Jesus of Nazareth was born in a humble manner. He was and is the good news, the message, of God’s unconditional love for this world.

And Jesus’ life, death and resurrection changed the world forever. This is a truth, regardless of what any of us believe.

The Christmas story, God’s story, is filled with hope because, as it turns out, it makes sense. God’s love is in the world, and we are the givers and receivers of that love.

We are empowered, compelled and invited to reach out to each other and love. To bind up broken hearts. To set free those who are enslaved to destructive attitudes and behaviors. To proclaim mercy and forgiveness.

It is not easy to live having hope. It takes constant vigilance and trust. It takes a heart willing and open to give and receive.

This is why Christians devote four weeks to Advent – so that we can be intentional about practicing hope. Trusting that God, in whose image we are made, has given us the power to love.

I don’t need to tell anyone how easy it is to want to hunker down and stay inside and protect ourselves from the chaos of this world. Especially during these darker days of December.

In this area of the Pacific Northwest we are infamous for the “Seattle freeze” attitude; closing ourselves off, insulating our lives.

But we are truly so much more than that. In Advent we live the hope that as we love, we make this world a little bit of a nicer, more joyful place.

We are people who are made with goodness, and joy and hope. We love this world that surrounds us. We do truly care and love.

So this Advent, I invite you to open up your heart, your home, your life a little more. Practice hope. Live with the certainty that regardless of how things turn out, they will make sense, even if you can’t see it right now.

Because then you will be living with a heart tuned a little more open to love.

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