on tension and hope

This week marks the second week of advent, the theme of which is peace.

I’ve always loved the season of advent. When I was young it was primarily out of an excitement for Christmas – the brisk weather, the lights, the music. But as I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the rhythms of the liturgical year, my love for advent has transitioned into a deeply abiding comfort in the tensions of the already and the not yet.

Advent is a season of anticipation – excitedly waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ. In preparation for this celebration, we reflect on the tension of living in the freedom that came through Christ’s resurrection while yet waiting for his final return, his restoration and reconciliation of the earth.

Never has this tension been so apparent to me as in these past several weeks of my Facebook newsfeed. From friends in Missouri bravely asking colleagues to acknowledge discrimination, to friends in Missouri frustrated by the challenge to their privilege. From friends in Chicago peacefully marching in protest of police cover-ups, to friends in Chicago frustrated by the impediment to their Black Friday shopping. From inter-religious, cross-political unification in welcoming refugees, to fearful, divisive language aiming to ostracize the stranger.

As I dive deeper into my academic and theological reflections on food and on conflict, my excitement for the Eucharistic re-membering of dis-membered community grows. My belief that the Gospel narrative encourages the communal breaking of bread and sharing of stories strengthens. And my commitment to the Christian call to peacemaking solidifies.

Yet as I scroll through my social media outlets, my exasperation at people I love spewing ignorance, fear, even hatred, burdens me beyond belief. As I look to the community I call my brothers and sisters in Christ, my ache over constant abuse of His name deepens. Even as I see this sorrow shared by so many others, distribution of the weight doesn’t make it any lighter.


This week, a professor challenged our class on the concept of hope. In a moment of terror or pain, she asked us to reflect, where did you find a glimmer of hope?

Hope is a theological concept, not a psychological state. Hope is a deep acknowledgement that things could be better which leads to a commitment to strive to make it so. Hope can exist alongside pessimism; hope is the advental state of tension.

My glimmer of hope in this season is the somber, yet expectant, hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

“O come, Desire of nations, bind//in one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid thou our sad divisions cease//and be thyself our King of Peace.”

My hope is not a naïve expectation for discord to disappear, but a belief that the God who asks that we eat together in remembrance of Him does change our minds, does bind the hearts of all mankind. It is a belief that my studies are not in vain, that bold expectations for justice are not a waste of time. That leaning into the tensions of the already but not yet, we will find the strength to carry our sorrows in the small, slow glimmers of change.

O come, Desire of nations, bind.
In one the hearts of all mankind.

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