The first of the candles in the Advent Wreath is the candle of Hope. In the Lutheran tradition of my childhood, we always lit Advent candles this time of year. Winter is often a time when we look for hope. We look with hope for the return of the sun in the months to come. We hope for good things in the future, as we celebrate the coming of the New Year.
As leaders in Unitarian Universalism in the West, our PWR team is inviting you to join us in seven cultural and spiritual shifts. The shift statement we want to highlight this month is the shift from Despair to Hope. Some people think that hope means denial of the despair we can feel during hard times or when acting against oppression. They may even say hope is just a distraction that keeps us from actions that will combat the roots of injustice. But I see things very differently. I think hope is part of what motivates us to make things better. Hope is what allows us to imagine a better future that could be possible. If we don’t believe a better future is possible, we cannot strive for it, work for it, even fight for it.
Where would we be if our heroes of history had seen no hope? If there was no glimmer of hope in the civil rights movement, no one would have marched for freedom. If suffragettes had been without hope, no women would be able to vote in the upcoming elections. If medical researchers had abandoned their hope, we would not have the treatments for AIDS that we have today. Hope is what makes each new day an opportunity to bend the arc of the universe towards justice.
Barack Obama said it this way: “Hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it”.
In our congregations, our hopes and dreams are often embodied in our congregation Vision statement. Our Vision is how we describe our hope for what the congregation can do and be. Rev. Renee Ruchotzke describes the Vision as your “vow with the universe”. If we embrace the hope of our Vision, letting it guide our decisions and inspire our actions, what kinds of good work can we accomplish together? What justice can we make manifest?
As this year comes to a close, may we embrace our hopes and a vision that inspires us to create the brighter future we dream of. May we all be inspired by the candles in the darkness. It is what we are called to do.
Here are some resources, pragmatic and spiritual, to help you grab onto the hope that will fuel your work to build a better world.
- Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott
- Active Hope: Facing the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone
- On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay McKesson
- Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood
All Will be Well by Meg Barnhouse
- Winter Solstice Reflection by Gregory Jones
- A Spark of Hope by Dr. Melanie Davis
- Stewards of Hope by Rev. Rebekah Savage
- We Hold Hope Close by Rev. Theresa Soto
- Make Sure it Tastes Good
- Sample Visioning Process: Guided Imagery for a Group
- World Café: An exercise for Vision Discernment
- Vision Statement Tips
- Ritual of Letting Go, Cleansing, Intention, and Hope by Lois Van Leer
- Three ways to cultivate a sense of hope, even when times seem hopeless by Rob Hardies