Just Life

Hope | November 2019.

Sunday’s sunset from my front porch

I’ve been thinking about Advent this week.

Advent starts this Sunday (the dates of Advent change year to year, because it always starts the 4th Sunday before Christmas) and I am delighted it actually starts on December 1 (next year it will start in November). It marks the beginning of the church year and welcomes a season of waiting and anticipation leading up to Christmas.

In many churches, we light candles each week, representing and recalling Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. At our church, different ministries are invited to light the candles each week, and as part of our Prayer Shawl Ministry, I will be lighting the first candle on Sunday. The candle of Hope. We are using materials from A Sanctified Art this year – the theme is What Can’t Wait – and I can only hope 😉 we are also going to be using the liturgy for the candle lighting:

I will wait for coffee to brew … traffic to clear … seasons to change … sun to rise … you to say sorry.

I will wait for a lot of things but I will not wait for hope.
I cannot wait for hope, because I want to live with hope — today and every day.
I want to roll my sleeves up and get to work — living, serving, giving, and transforming with the hope of a better day.

So today as we light the candle of hope as a reminder and as prayer that we might stop waiting and start living, stop watching and start moving.
May the light of this candle burn inside us this week — inspiring hope and action for God’s promised day.

In addition to Sunday morning candles, my recent Advents have also included small group studies – last year we read Advent in Narnia and it was a lovely reminder of how Lewis worked his magic and how much I loved Narnia (also, Haverkamp does a great job with the material). This year, we’re reading Names for the Messiah. We had our first meeting last week (four Sundays doesn’t always translate to four meet-able Fridays) and I must say … it didn’t feel all that hopeful, but it did feel good to dive into ancient scripture with other women of faith to explore connections between 7th/8th century BCE, 1st century CE and today.

This year, though, I’m wanting more for the season. I totally get the link to Hope, but I can’t put my finger on anything else specific that’s drawing me in. I’m not gonna question it … instead, I’m just going to embrace it!

Tsh Oxenreider (you might know her from The Art of Simple blog or the podcast?) is publishing a book about Advent next year … and she’s letting all of us download the material for the first week for free. right now (link here). Her latest podcast was all about Advent and how it was season of anticipation. and hope. She’s inspired me to create an Advent wreath in my home. (I’m listening to the playlist she published as I type this post and it’s so good!)

After church last Sunday, we passed out copies of Presbyterians Today Advent Devotional, Straw for the Manger. It offers daily suggestions for “adding straw to the manger” by carrying out an act of love. We don’t have a nativity in our house, but I’m going to use a bowl and strips of paper. maybe nestled in the middle of the wreath I’m going to create.

In the midst of all the … ALL … that’s happening in the world, and our country … and some days in my own kitchen, I am ready to embrace this new season. with hope, peace, love and joy.

Thank you to Juliann for hosting and to all of you for reading and supporting me.

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a  distance but live right in it, under its roof. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

(via Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist)


  • Carole

    I love this: stop waiting and start living. I think we spend so much time waiting for something to happen: for the book we want to read, for the stuff we ordered online to arrive, for the end of the work day, etc and when we do that we don’t live in the present at all. Beautiful post on hope today, Mary.

  • Sarah

    Every time I read one of your hope posts, I feel uplifted. I love how you are always looking for hope in this crazy world we live in. This particular post made me think of my synagogue’s theme for this year’s High Holy Days: “If not now, when?” In other words, we should seize the moment and not wait for it. I think that goes very well with the quote at the end of your post, and I love the idea of living inside hope rather than admiring it from a distance.

  • Kat

    When I was a child, I loved the Advent Wreath – it was a visual reminder of Christmas getting closer. This was a tradition I used in my house when the kids were growing up. It facilitated lovely, centered dinner times and the kids loved taking turns reading the advent devotion out loud before we ate. I have not put up at advent wreath in years – but this is inspiring. I might have to take parts of this in December and make this work for me (I am thinking it will help me with my December Focus!) Thank you for sharing this moving post! XO

  • Jeannie Gray

    What a nice post! Lighting the Advent candles has always been a big part of my family’s holiday tradition and I’m so glad that my now grown kids are carrying on the tradition. Happy Holidays!

  • Bonny

    Your hope posts this year have gone a long way towards helping me get a better grasp on hope myself, ad now I also want to re-read Animal Dreams!

  • Patty

    You provide so much to think about Mary and for that I say thank-you. I love this part…I want to roll my sleeves up and get to work — living, serving, giving, and transforming with the hope of a better day. Still not sure how I’ll make that work (January 2021…) but I’ve got time to think and pray on it.
    Happy Thanksgiving my friend! xo

  • karen

    the dynamic catholic website has a five minute advent video message that is perfect to digest if you are interested. I love it and they do lent as well. Our church has an advent wreath and someone from the congregation lights up a candle each Sunday. We’ve been asked two years in a row (yay!).

  • Debbie

    I love lighting my Advent candles during some quiet prayer time at the end of each day during this season.
    The church I grew up in had an Advent wreath suspended from the ceiling and I remember being nervous for my brothers if they were serving and had to reach way up there to light the candles. The church I go to now has the wreath on a stand and different families are asked to light the candles.
    You are right, the waiting and hope of Advent is not passive, we should be fully engaged in life in order to fully appreciate this season. This year I will be re-reading Advent of the Heart, a collection of the Advent sermons by Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest who was martyred by the Nazis and wrote most of these sermons while he was in a Nazi prison. My favorite of his sermons is sometimes called The Shaking Reality of Advent, he writes about the importance of being shaken awake and fully present to the world around us.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Mary, and may you have a blessed Advent!

  • Honore´

    Without Hope we cease to be, to thrive, to love, live on and be grateful…and oh yes! It is so, so, so hard, especially these days and then, we see a lovely sunsrise/sunset; a child’s smile and twinkling eyes; recall a lovely memory; read an especially poignant passage..gather all these memories and can carry on – because there is hope , always.

    Thank you for helping us to remember there’s hope.