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Monday, December 6, 2010

THE SACRED PAUSE: Advent Reflection on Hoping

 Below is what we at imagine/Northampton visit us for our Advent event called the Sacred Pause. It is self-directed and multi-sensory, but conducive to reflecting on Advent.

Season of Advent: THE SACRED PAUSE


The Scripture says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Pr. 12:12) Hope is a very powerful attitude of the heart and mind. We choose to hope in the light of the faith we’ve put in Christ because we are convinced he is who he says he is. There is evidence that Jesus Christ is Immanuel (God [truly is] with us) in our lives. We’ve experienced him in worship, come to know him through the Scriptures, taught and preached, heard his “still small voice” in prayer and contemplation, had prayer answered, and experienced the testimonies of other Jesus-followers about his presence in their lives.

The essence of all hope is to wish or long for something with expectation of its fulfillment. Implicit in hope is confidence that what you hope for will come to be; otherwise it’s merely a desired fantasy. Hope desires what is hoped for; it looks forward to receiving or experiencing what is prized.

Hope enlivens the hopeful. It takes the edge off the troubles and afflictions of life. It steels the will toward good things to come, and focuses the heart on living well by doing good all the time. But, hope does not settle just for the “now.” It wants more because it has had glimpses, heard whispers and enjoyed subtle foretastes of glories and delights to come.

“Hope is the dream of a soul awake.” (French Proverb)

During the Advent /Christmas season we experience in a small part what we are hoping for: Christ was born and lived in real-time. We were born into true life through him in the present and when we take our first steps into eternity. We remember and celebrate Jesus’ birth in light of his death and resurrection. We wait not for his first birth, but for the birth of a redeemed creation where all will be set to right, the tears and pain will be gone, and life beyond what we can imagine will fill our “days.”   

Sometimes, though, our hope in almost everything feels challenged. We go through all sorts of valleys of “the shadow of death,” and our hope can be frustrated or wounded. We wear down. Yet, with each new Advent we have the chance to renew our hope because of “Christ in [us] the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) The entire, glorious Christmas story can kindle a renewed inching back toward hoping again, for some, even hoping against all hope. Advent and Christmas freshens all of life if we look for it.

You see, hope contemplated can be hope revived and deepened. More so, contemplating the One in whom we have set our hope strengthens us to resilience and renewed expectation. Such hope holds on with grounded anticipation. It waits, but with a forward tilt and open heart.

The question is where are you “tilting” this Advent season? Does there seem too much “hope deferred,” in your life? Have fears or worries gained a foothold, weighing you down so you can’t even enter into the anticipating and celebrating. Is fatigue smothering your ability to hold fast to hope and joy? Is family pain, loss of work, or lack money snatching  Advent and Christmas from you? There’s hope.

Take time to sit in the grace-soaked “pause” with your Abba. Breathe slowly and lift your cares to him as they come into your thoughts, each one. Ask him to settle you into peaceful stillness where urgency and stress aren’t welcome. When it feels right, ask him the following questions and listen to what he will show you:

1. Father, how have I let the cares and struggles of my life gradually silence my hope? Where are you inviting me to desire and expect again?

2. Father, how would you have my soul come “awake” to you afresh this Advent season?

3. Lord, teach me more of the reality of “Christ in me, the hope of glory.”
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