I subscribe to lots of church newsletters, emailed weekly. With these subscriptions often come daily advent devotionals. You know the drill: miscellaneous members and pastors and staff write a short devotional, usually on a Biblical text (that may be referenced in the devotional…or not) and end with a prayer.
I’ve noticed another pattern in many of these devotionals as well. It is the “I remember” approach. The well-intended writer begins with a memory of Christmas – a visit to family, a special ritual that was enacted each holiday, the smell of baking cookies, the smell of a fire in the fireplace, the smell of a freshly cut tree, the smell of…you get the idea.
With all due respect to holiday memories, I’m not sure this kind of construct helps build resilience – at Christmas or any other time of year. No less a theologian than Tony Soprano (yes, that Tony Soprano) once said: “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”
“Into this world,” Thomas Merton wrote, “this demented inn, Christ has come uninvited.” In a world where there is no room for God’s ultimate gift, God makes room for Jesus. This is the beginning of a resilience we can count on. Despair – in all its forms – cannot thwart God from giving the world God’s ultimate expression of love and hope.
Dorothy Day once said: “When ‘Jesus is coming’ becomes ‘Jesus has come’ – expectation becomes assignment.” The assignment, however, is not a burden. It is not sigh-inducing. It does not diminish us. The assignment to each of us is to trust the promises, the power, the presence of the Living God made known to us in Jesus Christ.
Nurturing resilience in these often-depleting times begins with expecting God to show up, be present, and work in the way God always works when God is present. God makes room for hope where we could see no hope. Our assignment is to greet each day by actively trusting that God’s promises are true and reliable and durable. We will not be able to construct resilience for this moment on our own, nor even in community. This is God’s mighty act.
Do you want to nurture resilience deep in your soul, here at the end of another trying year? Trust the God who makes room for hope where there is no hope. Imagine the fullness of that promise. Then, abandon despair. Give up fear. Hold to the promise of peace. Claim the gift of love. Grow hope in every single thing you do.