The hopes and fears of all the years. . .

Old Salem Bridge, by Sheila G. Hunter

Advent is here. We are called by Advent liturgies to watch. Wait. Hope.

And yet—“the world is too much with us” (Wordsworth)—as our earth’s most vulnerable ones weep at the border…from tear gas. As too many of God’s Beloved Community fall asleep at night unsafe or uncertain even about surviving another day.

Advent is here, and what I think I fear most about the season within myself is waking up on that first Sunday in Advent to discover that I’ve stopped believing. Faltered at hoping. Lost my nerve for standing strong in faith against what I know is unjust in our world. I fear that fear is chasing away my confidence in hope. 

So an ancient carol calls to me—maybe to many of us—across the years and from a war torn West Bank city: the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee…

 

hope journeys from bethlehem by starlight
night creatures singing what they’ve heard

a woman wails then weeps then coos
her own heart birthed and beat-
beating in a straw-lined cradle

the baby is here

fear crouches at the border watching surveillance spotlights
dip and weave wind bruising itself on unmusical concertina wire

a woman wails then runs choking smoke licking at her feet
her own heart cradled
in a patch of tear-soaked blanket

the baby is here

“so we finally meet” hope reaches out a hand 
fear looks up “i am lonely and the hour is late”

a child cries forsaken into the night “i want to go home”
fear and hope be—hold each other and an almost-
forgotten lullaby falls from their lips 

the baby is here



The hopes and fears of all the years meet wherever we are most vulnerable. At borders. In killing streets. In our own hearts. In the manger. Perhaps Advent—and whatever possibilities for healing and renewal live within us—begins at these meeting places. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Jill Crainshaw

I am a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and an ordained PCUSA minister.

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