Advent Reflection: Hope Being Birthed

by Daniel Harmon

“We are not waiting for the coming of an ideal church or any perfect world here and now, or even just for the next world. The kingdom is more than all of these. It is always here and not here. It is always now and not yet” -Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas. 

In September we were preparing for a new experi(ence)(ment) at Orange. After much conversation, discernment, and attention, we decided that we sensed an invitation from God to be more involved with the lives of kids in our neighborhood by starting a monthly “Peace Club.” This was a direct response to a great week of Peace Camp in August where kids from our neighborhood showed up, and we realized that something beyond ourselves was occurring. 

The preparations were made. A theme was decided on, a lesson was prepared, fun games were picked out, and snacks were purchased. We walked the neighborhood with flyers, shared on the internet, and made efforts to invite friends and neighbors to be part of this experience. We were in that space that Richard Rohr describes as the “now and not yet.” With any new experiment comes anticipation, anxiety, and a natural fear of failure. We found ourselves painfully present in the now, afraid of the not yet that would soon be coming into our midst. 

After sitting at our registration booth for about 15 minutes we had a total of two kids show up, brothers, who had been present at our Peace Camp a few weeks before. Our games wouldn’t work with two kids. The lesson, which involved mixing up with people you didn’t know, didn’t make a lot of sense for two brothers who had spent their entire young lives together. This is where the not yet brings discomfort. Questions rush into the mind: Have we failed? Did we do something wrong? Maybe we just aren’t the kind of community that people want to be part of. These fears are what so often prevent us from risking and living into God’s future in the first place. The “not yet” that we predict in the present is often more disabling that reality itself. 

We decided to do our craft, creating a map of our lives on poster board, drawing out significant moments, relationships, and signals to our personhood. Our two youth and adult volunteers all worked on their maps together. A few minutes after we started the craft, another family walked in, a mother and two daughters. In broken English, the mother asked if this was the Peace Club. The whole family spoke only Spanish, but luckily, the mother of the two brothers spoke Spanish fluently. She communicated on our behalf with the mother and her two daughters. They described themselves as refugees from Mexico who were here staying with family. They had been displaced from their home, and were in the U.S. until they figured out what was next for their family. We offered them a snack, which they happily accepted, and we continued to share together in conversation. 

With the translation support of our first parent, we were able to all share the maps of our lives we had created, and learn a little bit about each other’s stories. As the narrative in the back of my mind that obsessed with congregational metrics and numbers began to diminish, I recognized that this exact composition of people in that exact moment made that particular moment of connection possible. I found myself able to embrace the “not yet,” and find the deep hope that comes from being in relationships with strangers, even when our realities are worlds apart. The experience became a blessing for all involved, and our genuine human connection led us into a Spirit-filled gathering. 

Hope is being birthed all around us. It’s not always the big moment, or the grandiose effort. Often times, hope is made most real in intimate connections, found in the smallest sliver of light in the deepest darkness. As we continue our Advent journey and wait for the coming of Christ, may we find him in the small, ordinary, seemingly meaningless moments of life. May we allow the hope of now to shape the future of “not yet.” Our prayer is that we may risk something new, so that hope may be born again.