This Advent season I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to.
One of my current favorite Advent hymns is “All Earth is Hopeful.” It was composed and written by Alberto Taulé as, “Toda la tierra,” and translated to English by Madeleine Forell Marshall. I love the rhythm of the melody, but maybe even more so, I love the text.
All earth is hopeful, the Savior comes at last!
Furrows lie open for God’s creative task:
this, the labor of people who struggle to see
how God’s truth and justice set everybody free.
This is the why of our faith. Seeing as I serve in ministry related to stewardship, and preach on it quite a bit, this is the why of “why we do what we do.” This is the meaning behind and the foundation of our hope. It’s the same hope which gives me comfort when I let my emotions surface at the thought of becoming a parent in a few short months. I am kind of terrified, to be perfectly honest. But I’m hopeful. And in this, I think I see “God’s creative task” at work.
It’s just one of God’s creative tasks though. Looking at the world outside of my bubble, I do worry about the truth and justice part. I worry that we are losing sight of our call to care for all people, near and far. I worry that those in positions of authority and leadership don’t understand the first thing about what leadership is, service. That’s probably my head stuff though.
People of Israel, you heard the prophet tell:
“A virgin mother will bear Emmanuel”;
she conceived him, “God with us,” our brother, whose birth
restores hope and courage to children of this earth.
Just when I let my worries creep up, I am reminded again of the why, of the Good News. The news we know this Advent season of Emmanuel- God with us! God coming into the world brings hope, courage, comfort, promise, and challenge. It’s God’s work for us, but it begs the question, what does it lead us to do in response? How are we changed by God’s work and gifts? (Or are we?)
When I find myself in moments of despair, words like this reorient myself. I remember that even in my short three decades of life so far, as goofy and as unpredictable of a journey as it has been of sorts, it all has made sense in retrospect. God has most certainly been present along the journey, and I know in my heart, God is very much present in the present.
Mountains and valleys will have to be prepared;
new highways opened, new protocols declared.
Almost here! God is nearing, in beauty and grace!
All clear every gateway, in haste, come out in haste!
God is not stagnant. God’s love is never changing, amid all of the changes that God’s love helps create amid a world of constant change. The church is not immune to this. We’re always changing, forming, and reforming. We do so, because God calls us to it, but also because as change happens, we’re called to be active and present in the world.
This means sometimes we’re translating literally or metaphorically. Other times, it means doing listening, wondering, imagining, and dreaming. Other times, it means speaking prophetically- offering a message of hope, abundance and peace to a world full of anxiety, scarcity, and fear. When anxiety and fear are replaced with hope and peace, that’s when true joy can be felt.
We first saw Jesus a baby in a crib,
This same Lord Jesus today has come to live
in our world; he is present, in neighbors we see
our Jesus is with us, and ever sets us free.
Allison and I love to decorate for Advent and Christmas. We have found over the years, especially when living in Minnesota, that decorating where we live gives us a little warmth, and feelings of family and comfort amid cold, and long dark nights. It also has become part of our “family tradition,” that I am greatly looking forward to sharing with a soon to be born child.
Today, I am hoping to set up our nativity sets and Advent calendars. Maybe by the end of the coming weekend on the First Sunday of Advent, we’ll be finished decorating the house. But for today, as I reflect, write and try to be more mindful and present, I need to choose hope.
As the nativity sets go up, as I see Jesus as a baby in a crib, I hope I do meditate some on how Jesus is very much present, with us, in us and our neighbors. God’s kingdom is breaking in, bit by bit. Freeing all of God’s children from the bondage to sin, death, and fear. And that’s something I think and believe we can all hope for. Amen.
Credit/Reference: Alberto Taulé, “All Earth Is Hopeful,” “Toda la tierra,” Madeleine Forell Marshall, tr., found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 266. Available and covered under OneLicense, LicenSing, and OCP (Oregon Catholic Press).