Advent Series: Hope
By Marina Reis

I am no expert on hope. Naturally prone to melancholy, especially when the sun sets at 4:30 p.m. and I have a long and cold drive home, my instinct leans a lot more towards grinning and bearing whatever struggle and sense of hopelessness is right in front of me. Hope, more often than not, feels like a luxury for the blessed, and the rest of us can cheer them on from the sidelines.

I found the task of writing this week’s blog on hope, in honour of the first Sunday of Advent, daunting. Everywhere we turn, it seems like there is a crisis beyond hope. On TV, it’s something about climate change. At the grocery store, it’s the ever-rising cost of basic necessities. The guy on YouTube has no good news about the Israel-Palestine war. People are losing their minds as they drown in loneliness and isolation.

You may find yourself asking, what is there to hope for?

Well, this is a personal question. Humans, even the most cynical among us, secretly hope until the end. I think the more important question this Advent is: what does it take to keep hope going?

First, be kind to yourself. If you can’t have hope this Advent, so what? This task can feel impossible on the worst days, so the last thing you need is to force yourself to feel something you can’t muster.

But keep in mind that hopelessness, like everything else in life, is transient. You can scoff and laugh at me for saying it, but hopelessness is not a life sentence. It passes.

Second, like everything worth having, hope does not come easy. Hope is hard work that takes practice. Many describe the first Sunday of Advent as representing the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah. I don’t want us to take that too literally right now, because I don’t want you to interchange hope with excitement. Excitement is like fireworks, bright and arresting. I believe that hope, the real deal, is a lot more subdued.

When I get home in December from my long and dark drive back from work, I drop my bag at the door, overwhelmed by the oppressive darkness of the season. The climb up the stairs feels insurmountable. My body will not warm up for twenty minutes. Where will I find the energy to do the bare minimum of cooking a nutritious dinner, cleaning the kitchen afterward, and prepping for another just as long and just as dark day less than twelve hours away?

I don’t know where I’ll find this energy. But putting one foot in front of the other, I climb each step to my room. I reach the entrance of my bedroom and sigh—deep from the belly. My hands and feet start to warm; maybe my nose will catch up too.

I don’t turn on the overhead lights because all their brightness will reveal is what I cannot face right now: the unmade bed that I left in a hurry in the morning, my cold coffee in a mug on the nightstand, the old makeup brush on the carpet floor. Plus, I don’t need the overhead lights now.

Even in the dark, I know what I’m looking for.

I feel around on my nightstand until my hand hits a wood-wick candle and a pack of matches. The flare doesn’t catch the first or second time (it never does), but on the third the match alights and I lower it to the wick. It lights the room just enough for me to find and change into my comfort clothes. My arms and legs have now warmed up and I no longer shiver. To keep the endorphins coming, I take this moment to make my bed. The old coffee and makeup brush can wait. Inviting as ever, I lay back on my bed and the small flame in the wood-wick candle crackles.

It’s not fireworks, but it will last through the night.

About this Contributor:

Marina Reis is a Senior Project Manager who has worked at Word Alive Press since 2017. She graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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