"Are you still working on your podcast?" "Yes, yes I still am." There were many silent seasons between what this team released in 2020 and what we offer to you now. For a variety of reasons ideas percolated and were poured out in our production group, and remained there. It is with excitement and relief that we offer this Advent reflection titled "Liturgies for Uncertainty."
I am including my homily and the two poetic offerings from the episode here:
Within the Christian tradition the first Sunday of Advent lights the candle of Prophecy. This marker of the new year inaugurates a recollection (referring to Isaiah) and a foretelling (the coming of the Redeemers birth) . In this moment caught between time orientations, there is a cradle of possibility. Perhaps your life seems to exist in the moments before the candle is lit when all is dark. It seems impossible to connect with the pronouncement of hope.
Within the liturgical calendar, the long stretch of Ordinary time has passed and a new season has begun. This is a significant shift. It is the celebration of a new year! Happy New Year! Even if the beginning of Advent isn’t when you traditionally celebrate the new year, you have experience with the feeling and anticipation of something new. A page turning. And the theme of this is hope. Hope that this new year will bring something delightful. Anticipation that what has been hoped for might transpire. Hope that the things you struggled with in the proceeding year have ended. It feels like something new. And yet, so often it isn’t. We remain in the same situations. Nothing substantive has changed. The same problem that confronted us yesterday stymies us today. In this way I think of hope as pernicious. It keeps holding the proverbial carrot just out of reach. One interpretation of the Stockade paradox about surviving seemingly unsurvivable situations is to “Confront the brutal reality. Never lose hope.” What brutal reality do you need to confront in this next year? How does an honest evaluation assist with forward momentum? These are not prescriptive actions, but rather calls to observation.
How do you walk with what remains unresolved? And how do you remain in relationship with uncertainty? These are the first questions that came to mind when asked to reflect on the nature of hope in light of long-suffering and illness. Our culture values outcome and production, measurable quantifiable increments that we can label as achievements. What happens when your goal is hope, because somewhere along the way you lost that sense that the horrible and difficult of your life would ever change. Perhaps it was the day you witnessed something ordinary that used to sparkle and delight, but now landed with a thud. Perhaps it was the moments or months after a diagnosis that would cause a drastic re-ordering of your life. Or perhaps it remains nebulous and you find yourself in a miasma with no directional markers. Perhaps the hope in those moments is stillness? Perhaps hope in those moments is acceptance? Hope is a continued commitment to the unresolved, hope is the prophetic.
ON THAT NIGHT
By Jan Richardson, from the Illuminated Advent Retreat.
On that night when
you are holding
your very last hope,
thinking to let it go
as too small to be saved
on that night when
you turn away at last
from the far horizon
over which you had thought
your life would come
to find you;
on that night,
this is where
will give way
to the mystery
and the blessing
that seemed so distant
come to meet you,
holding your heart
in its two
"On That Night" © Jan Richardson. From the Illuminated Advent Retreat. Used by permission. janrichardson.com
“Sometimes the thing that gets us through the day is knowing that it will end.
God, thank you for the hope of a new day and the relief that I won’t have to return to this particular one.
In rest, renew my perseverance.
In acceptance, uphold my heart.
In patience, prepare me for glory.
You abide with me
more than I can see.
Amen.” -K.J. Ramsey
This poem was originally posted here and more about KJ can be found on her website. Used with permission.