Rabbi Hugo Grynn used to tell a story about his family, who were sent to Auschwitz when he was a little boy. In the midst of the concentration camp, in the midst of the death and horror all around them, many Jews held onto whatever shreds of their religious observances they could, without drawing the ire of the guards. One cold winter’s evening, Hugo’s father gathered the family in the barracks. It was the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Lights. The young child watched in horror as his father took the family’s last pad of butter and made a makeshift candle, using a string from his ragged clothes. He then took a match and lit the candle. “Father, no!” Hugo cried. “That butter is our last bit of food! How will we survive?” ”We can live for many days without food,” his father said. “We can not live a single minute without faith and hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here! Not anywhere!”
Christian hope is fundamentally different from optimism. Christian hope locks its steely eyes on the devastation of the world around it, and readily acknowledges that things may not get better. Christian hope does not bury its heat in Christmas cheer and artificial lights, but like an Advent wreath glowing stronger and brighter each week, this hope pushes its way into the brokenness of the world clearing a path in the wilderness so the true light might burst into the darkness.
It’s been a tough period for the Lavenders recently, and we’ve found out that we have some friends who go above and beyond what might even be called exceptional friendship! We’re also knowing that some things have seasons, and the pain of letting go and seeing something you cherish wither and perish is sometimes soul-destroying. but we hold to our Advent faith in a God who comes into the midst of brokenness and brings hope, even when everything else seems hopeless. This is the pattern of faith, hope in the midst of hopelessness, new life through death and dying.
I’m hoping that Advent really does lead through Christmas and Lent to Easter and resurrection. May it be like that for you too. Maranatha!