Advent 2020: Four Signs of Hope

Advent is a season of hope.

For Christians, it’s a season of anticipation and preparation, getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We believe that God took human form and came to show us immense love. By participating in Advent, we hope to ready our hearts and homes to welcome more of that kind of love into our lives. Because love is the bottom line, isn’t it?

I’ve been decorating my house this past week, as I’m sure many of you have been doing, too. I started thinking about hope and how our choices of decorations can reflect hope. I’ve also been watching the news, which, again, I’m sure many of you have also been doing. Hope is sometimes harder to find there. But not impossible. Here are four signs of hope that caught my attention this week. Maybe you can think of others.

A Covid-19 vaccine. Several companies have been working like our lives depend on it (because they do) and they’ve finally developed versions of a highly effective vaccine. Distribution is about to begin. Of course, it won’t be immediately available to those of us who fall into the lower risk category. But the end of this devastating pandemic is in sight. If that’s not reason to hope, I don’t know what is.

Snow. I usually start my holiday decorating by adorning our windows with snowflake stick-ons. Then, I pull out every snowperson decoration I own. Some people set up elaborate Christmas villages on fluffy snowscapes. Others inflate snowmen or whole snowfamilies in their front yards. I live in New England, which means there may be snow on the ground for Christmas, but I’ll bet that people in warmer climates still use images of snow in their decorating. Why? Is it because we love snowstorms and shoveling and icy road conditions? I think not. It’s because there’s beauty in snow. And fun. So, we choose to celebrate the good over the not so good, when it comes to snow. We hope for the beauty of a quiet snowfall or the exhilaration of building snowpeople, instead of clinging to the downside of a snowy season. That’s hope in action, in my opinion.

Lights. I like to wrap my Christmas tree in all white lights. It makes me think of a starry sky. And many houses (not mine ;)) are draped in a variety of colorful lights. Some people put electric candles in their windows. Locally, there’s even a zoo, a motor speedway, and a national shrine each boasting light displays worth traveling for. It’s a dark time of year in the northern hemisphere, and celebrating with lights reminds us that darkness, both literal and figurative, is temporary. There’s hope for light at the end of whatever your dark tunnel might be.

Evergreens. Whether you bring in a freshly cut pine tree and pine branches, or you put up a fake tree and light a pine-scented candle, we gravitate toward evergreens in our decorating schemes. Why? This one’s fairly obvious, especially for those of us in colder climates. Trees, bushes, lawns, and gardens go dormant for the winter. A lot of what we see outdoors looks dead. But evergreens remind us that there’s still life in our landscapes and that spring will come again. For me, the smell of fresh pine is the smell of hope.

My decorating isn’t done yet, how about yours? There are still a few weeks before Christmas. πŸ˜‰ I intend to enjoy every minute of them. Advent 2020 has given me the unexpected gift of slowing down enough to appreciate the season and to savor the hope it embodies. My hope is that you each find that same gift this year. God bless.

Gratitude Spiral: Day 356

Today, I’m grateful for a flu shot during this pandemic.

I bit the bullet and made an appointment for my flu shot today. I hate shots. (Does anyone love them?) But I know it’s the responsible thing to do right now, especially with an even worse virus going around. So, I’m thankful for being able to put aside the discomfort for the sake of my health and the health of those around me.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 351

Today, I’m grateful for early morning food shopping.

These days, just going to the store is a risky operation. I’m thankful that I have the means and the opportunity to do my food shopping early, soon after the store opens. That way, I avoid the crowds and much of the risk.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 335

Today, I’m grateful for opportunities to exercise indoors.

Some days are too rainy or cold or just too miserable outside for me to convince myself to go out for a morning walk. On those days, I appreciate the workouts I can find on tv and the treadmill in my basement. They leave me with little excuse not to exercise. πŸ™‚

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 187

Today, I’m grateful for the continued health of my family in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As I text, call, and meet via Zoom with my children, my parents, and my extended family, I’m thankful that they’re all staying safe and well. I miss the monthly family dinners with my kids. And I always wear a mask and keep my distance when helping my parents these days. But I can’t complain, knowing that they’re all healthy. Someday, we’ll be able to be together again without so many precautions and restrictions.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 130

Today, I’m grateful for my sewing machine.

It’s been around for a few decades and hasn’t gotten much use lately. But here it is, all ready for me, just when I feel the need to make a few face masks. πŸ™‚

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 129

Today, I’m grateful for petroleum jelly.

I don’t know about anybody else, but days and weeks of diligent hand-washing have left my hands dry and chapped. Last night, I resorted to a trick from my childhood: I covered my hands in petroleum jelly for the night. When I was little, I’d do this and wear white gloves to bed. Last night, I put an odd pair of socks on my hands instead. And oh, how soft my hands felt this morning!

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 92

Today, I’m grateful for access to good dental care.

Don’t get me wrongβ€”I’ve had my share of cavities, tooth abscesses, and root canals. But I still have a decent set of teeth, thanks to lifelong access to dentists. Those of us who’ve managed to keep most of our teeth for decades can sometimes take them for granted. But, really, what a blessing.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 71

Today, I’m grateful for strong, healthy bones.

The other day, I was driving through a parking lot and passed two different people bent with apparent osteoporosis. One of them was bent at nearly a right angle, facing the pavement as he walked, unable to look up. It made me appreciate my healthy spine so very much!

What are you grateful for today?