ADVENT INTRODUCTION for Daily Devotional: Day 1 / Week of Hope

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. — Genesis 1:3-4

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In this year’s holiday devotional, as you light candles each day, adding a new flame every week, we invite you to meditate on the blessings of Advent: hope, peace, joy and love. Each offers a form of inspiration and illumination: both inwardly in our souls and bodies and outwardly by how we learn, live, play, work, and serve in the world.

Let us remember what Rachel Held Evans observed during a difficult holiday: “Those little Advent candles sure have a lot of darkness to overcome this year … Their stubborn flames represent the divine promise that … God can’t be kept out.” This assurance believes that each flame kindled in the world—metaphorically referring to human hearts and lives, each of them shining as lanterns in this mortal world—carries the potential to ignite transformative blazes as well as to awaken comforting hearth fires.

The daily act of lighting a candle reminds us that God chooses to return to humanity’s experience, to show up incarnate, in our messy world. Nothing can stop love’s arrival. Like dawn spilling across the horizon after the depths of a night’s vigil, love arrives with the light.Love also presses close in the holy dark.

When we practice setting a small part of our time and space aflame each day, we’re inviting the light to attend us. Abide in us. Illuminate us.  — Rev Gail

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WEEK of HOPE – DAY 1
Sun, Nov 28

And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in you. — Psalm 39:7

The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day,
to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night,
to give them light … — Exodus 13:21

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One candle to signify hope? The candle, until today, remains unmarked. Its wick curves like a question mark, inviting you to ask. 

            Within you dwell questions. Seeds that have grown and seek to open and thrive. Curiosity begins in the wilderness, or what you might consider to be the fruitful dark of unresolved, unexamined, unexplored parts of the world or the self. Questions arise where things may not yet be visible or known.

            Today, before you give birth to light, by setting the wick aflame, make friends with the darkness. Stare into it. Let its depths become more visible as your eyes adjust. Grow more attuned to sitting in the absence of the light or the flame.

            What senses grow keener when vision isn’t in use? What can you discern without light to heighten the contrast around the contours and edges of the world surrounding you? Or to illuminate the self within?

            Allow the darkness to keep you company. Part of hope acknowledges that you begin each journey with a sense of uncertainty and discomfort. Yet hope grows in such places.  Love takes root within this life-producing womb of not-knowing.

            Yes, in this season, you will shine a light into darkness. Yet when you welcome the fertile depths and darkness, look into it, and let it touch you, you embrace beginnings. You invite questions to come alive.

            Afterward, light the single flame. How does its presence change the darkness in which you have immersed yourself? — Rev Gail

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Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. — Brene Brown

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Blessing of Hope
— Jan Richardson


So may we know the hope
that is not just for someday
but for this day—
here, now, in this moment that opens to us:
hope not made of wishes, but of substance,
hope made of sinew and muscle and bone,
hope that has breath and a beating heart,
hope that will not keep quiet and be polite,
hope that knows how to holler
when it is called for,
hope that knows how to sing
when there seems little cause,
hope that raises us from the dead—
not someday but this day, every day,
again and again and again.

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