Exercise Hope

Advent arrives once more in the relentless rush of time.  A year ago at this time, the blog was a simple weekly email that went to a handful of family and friends who were willing to commiserate with me as I desperately hoped that I might be living in the house by Christmas.  Alas, time marched along but the building process didn't quite keep up and so we spent Christmas of 2011 in our fifth wheel within spitting distance of the new house anxiously watching and waiting for its completion.

That exercise of waiting and hoping, brought a heightened awareness of Advent and so even though I was disappointed I did learn something.  Hope is good.  Hope keeps us going.  Hope fuels our faith, our peace, and our joy.  Aaah that was a light bulb moment, when I realized that hope is woven intrinsically into the entire Advent season.

This is how it works.  Advent like many things Christian was adopted and adapted from other traditions over the course of thousands of years.  It is the four week period leading up to Christmas in which we are encouraged to center ourselves on the journey by exercising our Advent muscles a bit.  Those four key muscles are Hope, Faith, Peace, and Joy.  One spiritual muscle per week to focus on; that should be doable.

Way easier than the hot yoga I tried this week where they were exhorting me to engage many muscles simultaneously.  A little diversion from Advent here.  The instructor wanted me, while balancing on one knee and one foot to lift the other foot from the ground and grab it with my opposite hand.  Yeah, never mind it didn't happen!  But back to Advent.  Does Advent require us to get into some unachievable spiritual pose or to engage in a practice we simply can't maintain?

My conclusion is no, Advent isn't another demand or item on the to-do list.  It's an opportunity to be still and know that God is.  It's a chance for us to exercise our spiritual muscles one week at a time, in a gentle timeless rhythm.  This week all you have to do is to keep Hope at the forefront of all you do.

What does that mean on the swake this year?  Well, my hopes for the house to be finished did eventually came to fruition.  This year I keep hoping that Kanti will suddenly grow up, and yes there are moments when she gives us a glimpse of what that will be like.  Last night when I came home, she accompanied me through the back door and promptly stole my slipper disappearing into the living room.  I exercised hope.  I stood still and told her to "Bring it back".  Wonder of wonders, she picked it up off the living room floor, wandered back to the laundry room and stood in front of me with it hanging from her mouth.  She wasn't quite prepared to give it up though.  So we are part way there, my hope is paying off.

Are we like Kanti?  Do we approach Advent with lots of good intentions and some basic training, only to turn back at the last moment?  I know that God keeps calling us back and I am going to intentionally exercise my Hope muscle this week in the certainty that God loves us not because of our efforts, but despite our efforts.  How's that for fuelling your hope?