Hope means hoping when things are hopeless

Advent and the little girl, Hope

Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.”

– G.K. Chesterton

It looked unquestionably bleak.

In a matter of two weeks, the Nazis had roared through Luxembourg, crushed the Netherlands, marauded through Belgium and blitzed deeply into France. The French Army and British Expeditionary Force found themselves pressed onto the beaches of Dunkirk with their backs to the unforgiving waters of the English Channel. The Americans across the Atlantic made it very clear that they wouldn’t send their boys to any foreign wars. And Great Britain looked increasingly alone.

But as the grim events inexorably unfolded, the bulldogish Prime Minister Winston Churchill made it clear to his Cabinet: There would be no surrender. In the darkness of those days – days which anticipated the Blitz of screaming bomber attacks on the cities of England – Churchill growled to his band of brothers.

The House [of Commons] should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies.

And within days, Churchill further pronounced,

I am convinced that every one of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.

Hope.

That was the first and greatest weapon raised against the Nazi menace. Hope was the light that illuminated blood-stained rocks on embattled Pacific islands and cold corners of the blackest concentration camps. It fired the chilled soldiers in the wintry foxholes of Bastogne and it refreshed the dirt-coated liberators in North Africa. Hope wasn’t a component of victory; it was the key to it.

That is the essence of Advent.

In dark days of disease and loneliness, fear and guilt, sin and death, a dusty prophet declared to an enslaved nation,

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. (Isaiah 9:1)

In a cultural backwater occupied by fearsome soldiers and short, unforgiving lives, a peasant girl was visited by a heavenly creature,

Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High – and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.  (Luke 1:28, 30-33)

An expectant mother and adoptive father, wise men traveling from afar, shepherds sensing a change in the chill wind on the edge of town – all were drawn by faith, but pushed by hope.

What is this strange thing, hope?

Perhaps the French poet, Charles Peguy, described it best in The Portal of the Mystery of Hope.

The faith that I love best, says God, is hope.
Faith doesn’t surprise me.
Its not surprising
I am so resplendent in my creation…

Charity says God, that doesn’t surprise me.
It’s not surprising.
These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for one another.
How could they not love their brothers.
How could they not take the bread from their own mouth, their daily bread, in order to give it to the unhappy children who pass by…

What surprises me, says God, is hope.
And I can’t get over it.
This little hope who seems like nothing.
This little girl hope.
Immortal…

It’s she, the little one, who carries them all.
Because Faith sees only what is.
But she, she sees what will be.
Charity loves only what is.
But she, she loves what will be.

Yes, that’s it. Hope is a precious, vibrant, beaming little girl who loves not only what is, but what will be.

Oh, it is true. At times in our lives, things can look a little bleak.

But take courage.

The essence of Advent is a little girl, Hope.

Advent of that Mysterious Joy

Originally posted on Beginning to Pray

Advent of that Mysterious Joy

Broods the cosmos in painful rending
Beyond infinity’s gentle bending
Over misery’s edge in galaxy far
A lost people on some forgotten star
Glory there with delicate care abides

Superintelligences cannot fathom
The hidden secret’s tender anthem
For they from above all time and space charge hastening
To the garden, to guard, to wield swords in chastening
Where envy’s deceit resides

Until heaven, song and peace bestowing
On lowly shepherds and sheep lowing,
Beheld revolving all hearts, and stars, and years, and land
Around what humble Godhead offers man,
And that mysterious joy besides.

                                                                   Anthony Lilles

Let God Find You

Let God Find You – As Seen in a Touching Christmas Commercial

 • December 8, 2017

It may seem odd to say, “Let God find you.” After all, God knows just where we are. But there is something very respectful about a God who, as Jesus says in the Book of Revelation, stands at the door and knocks. Even back in the Garden of Eden, as sinful Adam and Eve hid, God walked through the garden and called, “Where are you?”

Yes, God waits until we let Him find us, until we open the door of our heart where He knocks, or until we decide to come out of hiding.

But God does knock. He sends us prophets and speaks through creation and His Word to establish a connection with us. He seeks a connection. Let God find you. Open the gift of His offer.

Something of this dynamic occurred to me while watching the John Lewis Christmas commercial below. And while the roles seem reversed, the dynamic is the same. A little girl spies a lonely man on the moon and seeks to get his attention, to connect with him somehow. But the man seems lost in his loneliness. Through perseverance, she reaches him and the connection is opened.

Let God find you. Let Him connect with you this Christmas.

Be born, sweet Child

Advent Summons

Come forth from the holy place,
Sweet Child,
Come from the quiet dark
Where virginal heartbeats
Tick your moments.

Come away from the red music
Of Mary’s veins.
Come out from the Tower of David
Sweet Child,
From the House of Gold.

Leave your lily-cloister,
Leave your holy mansion,
Quit your covenant ark.
O Child, be born!

Be born, sweet Child,
In our unholy hearts.

Come to our trembling,
Helpless Child.
Come to our littleness,
Little Child,
Be born unto us
Who have kept the faltering vigil.
Be given, be born,
Be ours again.

Come forth from your holy haven,
Come away from your perfect shrine,
Come to our wind-racked souls
From the flawless tent,
Sweet Child.

Be born, little Child,
In our unholy hearts.

~Mother Mary Francis

Learning to wait

Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is

Advent–that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate,

for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth,

when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels:

“On earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”

Learn to wait, because he has promised to come.

“I stand at the door…”

We however call to him: “Yes, come soon,

Lord Jesus!”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom: the essential writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sam Wakes Up in Bed at The Field of Cormallen

The joy that lies ahead . . .

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

I have many favourite moments in The Lord of the Rings and two of the very best are when Frodo wakes up in bed in Rivendell after the flight to the Fords of Bruinen and this scene at The Field of Cormallen.

“When Sam awoke, he found that he was lying on some soft bed, but over him gently swayed wide beechen boughs, and through their young leaves sunlight glimmered, green and gold. All the air was full of a sweet mingled scent.”

Tolkien mixes some beautiful images, springtime after winter, light after darkness, rich verdant plenty after a wasteland and my own particular favourite, waking up in a comfortable bed after a hard journey.

As a young man I spent six years as a teacher in a secondary school (high school) in Africa. I loved to travel and soon learned that every journey was in itself an adventure to…

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