Painting title: Hope for the Future. Original Artwork by Ingrid Hauss
Christmas is, for me and for many, the most important festival of the church year. I call it The Feast of the
Incarnation. Preparation for what will happen in the time from the beginning of Advent, which is the four weeks
before Christmas and Epiphany, which is the celebration of the arrival of the wisemen at the manger, can be a
fraught time for believers.
Our hopes that celebrating and contemplating the good which Christians can do at this time may be fraught. Our
passionate yet painful participation in this time can be like a homesickness for our future wholeness. The
contrast we experience between our present reality and the reality we hope is coming through us and within us
in the future, is a weighty thing to hold.
There are things we can do which may help us focus on our deepest desires. I have a medium sized egg-shaped
candelabra for our dining room table. It holds four coloured candles, one for each week of advent.
After we light the first one, an additional candle will be lit every week until they are all lit. When it is time to light
the larger white candle of Christmas which is surrounded by the other four candles, we have done something in
The intentions symbolized by the candles are ineffable, prayers beyond us too deep to be said with words alone.
The first candle, which is blue, is the candle of hope. In this time of fire, flood, climate crises and deeply human
problems of oppression, loneliness, addiction and other terrible things, many people believe there is no hope. If
we hope with them for their concerns, if we notice small shining incidents of hope, will this help all of us carry
the weight of hope against heavy hopelessness? I light this blue candle for hope and try my best to notice hope
among us. For example, I notice that some people say that our care for people and all living creatures is the
most important thing we can work towards, that hopes for peace will lead us towards peace.
In the second week I light the blue candle for peace. I believe this helps hold the tension between the peace we
hope for and the desperate reality of our world.
In the third week of Advent, the colour of the candle is pink, which is the symbolic colour of joy. Joy in my
understanding includes everything, everyone and every situation and is held by hope and peace. This is a
concept which must be something like ‘the peace that passes understanding.’ I feel some release of tension
during the week of the pink candle for joy as I look for bright shining bits of joy which are among us despite
suffering and disaster.
The candle in the week before Christmas is, again, blue. The colour of the clothing of Mary the mother of Jesus
has often been depicted in religious paintings as blue. In this week there is a feeling that our largest
understanding is of a world pregnant with a great gift for us all.
When Christmas arrives, we may be ready to receive our gifts as individuals and communities and move into
preparations for newness in our lives. Perhaps this gift at Christmas is the ineffable gift of compassion which will
move us to participate with love in ways that lead us and others towards wholeness. Could this be the
wholeness in what Matthew Fox and Brian Swimme call continuous incarnation? Is this the gift of innocence on
the far side of experience? Hope moves into Peace into Joy and Love into loving Compassion. Some things do
not grow old.