"Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel" has been on repeat in my head since Sunday; it may not have helped that I played it on repeat Sunday afternoon before heading off to Mass, solidly cementing it in my psyche for the liturgical new year. Then, I just happened to wake up Monday morning with it dancing across my mind. Really what could be better than awaking to a chorus of rejoice after a splendid long weekend?
All of my blog friends out there in InternetLand posted their Advent reflection on Sunday. Not this chica. Have no fear, though! In the life of a full-time volunteer (and with the delay that has recently been placed on my brain), Tuesday is the new Sunday.
In the midst of holiday preparations and work stresses (which in some cases are one in the same), "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel" has echoed in my ears. How redundant is it that we say "Come, God with Us, Come!"? If God is with us, why then must we call on God to come? I know, I know- Jesus is God with us, the incarnate presence of the Divine; I do have a religious studies degree, you know, so it's not a question of what Advent is or the preparation that takes place during this time, a readying of ourselves for the coming of God both in the Christ child on Christmas but also at the end of time. Instead, I wonder in what ways I have been crying out to a God that is so close that s/he is intertwined with my very being and doing.
To sing out, "Oh come, oh come God with us" is less of a plea to God than with myself. God is already here, I but need to recognize it. If I seek, I will find; if I cry out, God will hear me; if I dare to hope, the door to Hope will be opened. After all isn't that what this season is about? Hope.
There are lots of reasons to lose hope. When people can't feed their families, when a woman is without a coat to keep her warm in her barely heated house, when people you've never seen before show up for assistance days before a holiday because they heard you were giving out assistance. There's no easy way to grapple with those things. How do you do justice when you don't know where justice needs to be served, where charity goes in vain, and what/ if an authentic, basic need is being or needs to be met.
Those reasons to lose hope can easily transform into reasons not to hope. How can I have faith in people who are seemingly playing the system? How can those in need be rightfully served when so much has yet to be done to meet their most basic rights and needs? I can choose (to the exception of my conscience) not to serve them, but that does neither of us any good. It is much easier to choose not to hope.
That is, to completely turn one's self off to the possibility of goodness, of justice, of righteousness. Yet, to choose not to hope is perhaps the worst thing one could do. Without hope, there is no promise. Faith cannot survive without hope. And unlike grace, which is freely given and can be recognized as it acts, hope is something that is inspired and which grows out of our being. Sometimes, even, hope exists within us without our fully recognizing it.
Ultimately, if I want others to retain hope, I myself must be free enough to hope. In a way, seeing someone else hope gives us permission to hope in our own lives. The call to hope is one of openness and faith. Remaining open to God, faith can flourish- I but need to bring my whole heart. If I can do that, there can be hope. With my whole heart, I must trust that when I call out to God to come, hope in finding God will allow me to see what has been there all along. And as I cry out "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel", God will respond, "Come then. I've been here all along."