Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hope in the Darkness

I often find December to be very difficult.  In many ways, as I continue to reel from the hateful rhetoric and policies revealed after the election, I'm finding this December to be even harder than others.  

I don't know when I started to feel disconnected with the Christmas season.  Since I entered adulthood I have struggled with the commercial nature of the season and the expectation to do everything with extravagence.  I've worn myself out crafting home made gifts to protect our family budget, and still often felt that I fell short of other's expectations.  Since having children I've also added a general feeling of exhaustion in December since there are so many extras that get tacked on to our already full schedule.  To be fair, there aren't many of those traditions I'd like to give up, and the kids are still enthusiastic so I soldier on.  

And then, four years ago, 20 children and six educators were brutally murdered eleven days before Christmas.  I don't know any of those parents personally, so maybe my continued grief is misplaced.  But, I am an educator and a parent.  I teach with the ghosts of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Columbine echoing in my head.  We've had two high level incidents of violent intent at my school this year, and in some manner we're always on alert.  It's a fear that never really goes away.  This time of year (Sandy Hook - 12/14/12) , and in mid April  (Columbine - 4/20/99) I find myself envisioning things too horrible to write here, and wondering when I say goodbye to my children if it will be forever. 

This time of year especially I hold my children a little closer, and bury my noses in their hair like I did when they were babies.  When I feel their no longer little arms press around me I can't help think of those Sandy Hook parents who had that chance taken from them.  They never anticipated that morning's goodbye would be the last.

Christmas feels hard.  

Advent... Advent is easier.

I've found some Hope in Advent.  The promise of Christ that is to come is much more powerful for me than the rememberance of Christ the baby that was.

Lights in the Darkness

Holden Vespers

I'm blessed with a wonderful pastor that spreads love and social justice with every breath he makes.  He's also a fantastic musician.  Every Wednesday during Advent I am able to sing and play and worship through Marty Haugen's Holden Vespers.  I draw power from the example of Mary, and remember that even when the world seemed like it was turned upside down she still praised, trusted and remembered.  I try to do the same.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm.
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his seed forever.


Although we started lighting the Hanukkah lights as a way to create some religious sensitivity in our children, I have come to find Hope in the lights and promises of Hanukkah.  When the candles are lit the prayers all start by saying, "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe."  For above all else Hanukkah is a festival of Hope.   Hanukkah reminds me to continue to spread the light and work to heal the breach.  The Maccabees were a small group working in hopeless conditions who only had the promise of God to light their way.  

Advent Sermons and Texts
Both the pastors I know, and the ones I listen to through podcasts have such wise words that help dispel the darkness.  This sermon by Nadia Bolz Weber is the best I've heard.

Tonight I'll light a Candle and I'll Remember

When I sing the prayers at tonight's Holden service I'll think about the lost ones of Sandy Hook and their families who wake up each day with a hole in their hearts.  Later, I'll pray for them alone at home and hope that we'll one day live in a world where parents don't have to worry about losing their children to violence.  I'll remember those 26 and other victims of violence throughout the world.   I'll hope for the promise given in Isaiah.

Isaiah 9:2-7The Message (MSG)

2-7 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.

In their names...
from The Mourner's Kaddish..
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.