I have been sitting in my living room in the dark evenings lit up by the Christmas Tree. I am fumbling with a fiddle, coaxing my fingers to play the notes of folk tunes and Christmas carols. This fall, the world seems particularly weary, beauty weighted with a complicated mix of war and worries. And I sing quietly along in my head one of my favourite lines: A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
And then, the line has me looking up the history (etymology) of the word Advent, which it seems I have never done before. The word comes from the Latin ad-venire, meaning to come, and then evolves into adventus, meaning arrival. As words change it becomes aduent in Old English, and then finally advent in contemporary English.
And this fiddling interest and love of language come together in my heart with a story told by the Bishop in Victoria when I was traveling in November. (The original story’s author is unknown but it was popularized by Paul Harvey as ”The Man and the Birds”.) A farmer is watching sparrows freezing in the snow, just outside the barn. He tries to coax them into the barn, but they fly away afraid. Watching longer, he has the insight that if he could just become one of them, he might have a chance to invite them to safety without scaring them away. He will have to come close to have a hope.
Weariness visits us all eventually. The weight of what I am carrying threatens to snuff out my hope. And there are so many temptations when the weariness arrives. It is easy to seek a source to blame, to run away from my complicity in my own weariness. I can fall into indifference and avoidance. And revenge or cynicism are so trendy these days.
When I stop trying to avoid the weary and the weak in myself, I become willing to draw close to my own fear. And the same is true for my longing in the world.
What could it mean for hope to have a thrill?
My kids rush down the stairs after supper to play. The enthusiasm and energy eventually fall into an argument and I just want the narrative to change. It is easy to force silence and more necessary to build the blocks for lasting peace. At my best, I draw close with love and help them to see and hear each other. We practice being good listeners, caring about how we all feel, find a way to receive the connection and space we long for. We will do it again tomorrow.
Tension sits in a meeting. I resist the urge to push my own way. We take the time to hear from everyone. We adjust timelines and weigh options. A different way emerges than any of us had imagined coming in. It is imperfect and the best we can do for now. We risk the possible by abandoning perfect.
People in my neighbourhood are hungry and lonely and addicted. We ache that what we give will not be enough. We give anyway, and keep our eyes and hearts seeing our neighbours.
A relationship I cherish is changing. We have each become deeper versions of ourselves and there is a tentativeness about the space between us. A series of texts, a phone call, a visit over coffee over many months. I resist the urge to make meaning from assumptions. Something new and beautiful emerges. I long for what has been and what will be in equal parts.
I sit back on the couch and reach for the guitar. I sing for a few minutes with Sheryl Crow: Peace on earth and in our hearts/That love ring out near and far/ and lift the weary and the weak/Keep you near this Christmas Eve.
Oh, that we would keep choosing to come close to our longing, to arrive near to each other with peace in our hearts. That hope would be a thrill that startles a weary world for always. And oh, that I will recognize the Hope that comes my way.