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By Rev. Mary Farmer

Once again, we find ourselves at the beginning of the Church year. Advent: the time to begin at the beginning, as we anticipate the story of the birth of Jesus, God among us.

Yet it is the busiest and most anticipated season by the world around us, much of which has no interest at all in Jesus or anything to do with that story of faith. Surrounded by a bustling and busy world that is focused on consumerism, entertainment and Santa, it can be challenging to find the time and energy to make room for God.

As we slowly emerge from the prolonged season of COVID that has enveloped us, I am finding I need something specific to focus on. As we have slowly transitioned back to in person contact and worship, hope has emerged as a recurring theme. Hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. Hope that we will feel safe as we begin to gather. Hope that our communities continue to support those who have returned to the building and those who are, as yet, unable to do that. Hope that we are able to see where the Holy Spirit is moving in our lives, parish families and the world. So, I have decided to make ‘hope’ the theme that grounds my Advent prayer journey this year.

Our Advent observances begin with lighting the candle of hope in the Advent wreath. It reminds us that this is the beginning of a season to anticipate something special. This year we are acutely aware of what it means not to have been able to be together to mark the rhythm of the Church year, so for many we eagerly anticipate sharing the story that leads up to the birth of Christ with our communities.

Whether or not your prayer practices include momentary pauses, formal prayers or prolonged silence, there is always time in the chaos and busyness of life to ‘recalculate’ the path and re- establish a connection with the centre of our being. I find when I am inwardly centred, I am better able to be outwardly focused, and deal with whatever comes my way.

This season of Advent as I focus on hope, I invite you to pray with me for wisdom and patience, as we navigate the challenges reconnecting presents. To pray with hope for understanding and cooperation as we deal with new and changing guidelines and congregational realities. To pray with hope for both the giving and receiving of that love with which we are each graced. To pray with hope and trust that we are able to show that love in every one of our interactions and practices. A friend recently posted these words by Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tunes without the words, and never stops at all.” May this be a season where hope infuses your life, prayers, actions and understandings.

Rev. Mary Farmer is an AFP Huron Executive.