I have spent my Wednesday evenings during this Advent season worshiping with a small but faithful group to the liturgy of Holden Evening Prayer. In the Christian tradition, Advent is a season of hope, anticipation, and expectation as we await the birth and incarnation of Jesus.
This year–this Advent season–hope feels a bit different. See, hope after loss looks a lot different than the innocent hope experienced in life before loss. It’s gritty and grounded. It recognizes that the glass is half empty, but that maybe, just maybe, that glass is also half full.
Hope is vulnerable. It looks like trusting in promises and dreams knowing that they can still be crushed in an instant. It looks like letting go of control and trying to embrace something that feels both real and unreal.
Hope is investment. It looks like embracing community and doing life with people in the highest of highs and in the lowest of lows. It looks like letting people into the heartwarming and the heart wrenching.
Hope is choosing to love. It looks like opening your heart to unexpected friendships. It looks like showing love through service, time, and the sacred space of relationships.
Hope is laughter. It looks like the deepest belly laughs. It looks like allowing joy back into a heart that has grown weary from carrying the weight of grief.
Hope is trust in something bigger than what is seen and experienced. It looks like entering sacred spaces of worship. It looks like seeking a peace that passes understanding. It looks like singing hymns of praise with a steadfast heart even when it is difficult. It looks like just listening and not singing when that is what is needed.
Hope is a plea for God to enter into the darkness of grief. It looks like prayer. It looks like a baby born from heaven into a manger to save the world. It looks like the incarnation. It looks like Emmanuel, God with us.
Hope is a gift. It looks like a Christmas ornament from a friend in memory of our son. It looks like random messages from friends just to say “I’m thinking of you and Alexander today,” and sounds like his name being spoken out loud.
Hope is looking back and looking ahead. It is remembering each and every moment that we spent with our sweet boy. It is looking to the future and trusting that maybe, just maybe, next year will be different. It looks like remembering backward and remembering forward.
Hope looks, feels, and sounds different than it ever has in my entire life. Hope, like most things in my life this year, is heavy.
And yet, even in all it’s weight, this hope is so very real. And it is so very needed. Oh so very needed. So. Very. Needed.