Advent Hope

By Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald  •  December 03, 2020

The calendar page turns to December. The tiny lights are twinkling in my neighborhood, Christmas carols are on the radio, and my heart yearns for the preparations of past years. There have been so many jokes about 2020, as we wonder whether the year would ever end. 

All earth is waiting to see the Promised One,
and open furrows, the sowing of our God.
All the world. bound and struggling, seeks true liberty;
it cries out for justice and searches for the truth

--Verse 1, All Earth is Waiting, Alberto Taulé (1972)

And yet, here we are at the threshold of the Christian season of preparation, Advent.  Hope, peace, joy, love - the words we sing and say to remind ourselves of the “real” meaning of Christmas.  As we begin this Advent series this first week using the verses of the hymn, "All Earth is Waiting," we open ourselves to the promise of HOPE. 

Communities Waiting

When I was a young adult, I spent summers in an island community. During the days, it was a crowded, bustling tourist destination, but in the evenings, it was quiet. On rainy days, we experienced the evening quiet all day. One summer, there was a string of foggy days when we couldn’t see the mainland and when the volume of tourists waned.  Some of the year-round “islanders” likened those days to the wintertime when the ferries ran only until ice made crossing unsafe, and a sense of isolation fell over the small community. 

I wonder, in these days of a worldwide pandemic, if we are island communities?  I wonder if we might find some resilience in those same island communities?  I wonder when all earth yearns for solace and hope if it is right here among us?

One of my favorite collections of devotions for Advent is Advent Readings from Iona, written by Brian Woodcock and Jan Sutch Pickard. Iona is an island community in Scotland, mystical in its spiritual foundations. On November 29, I began my Advent journey with this resource borne out of an island community, offered to us in hope.

Listening Through Fog

John, the author of the apocalyptic vision of Revelation, gives us these words of scripture, “Listen!  I am coming very soon!”  Listen!  Listen!  Listen as though you are on an island shrouded in fog, isolated by weather, invisible. Listen to the voices of your loved ones around you. Listen to them even when your patience is running low and the days linger long into the early darkness.  Listen!

The voices from Iona profess a knowledge of what it is to be separated, hopeless, discouraged, unmotivated. They recount a story about miners trapped underground, isolated and endangered. They also describe the way the rescuers and those trapped quieted themselves to listen, really listen into the silence and were guided to safety.  

In the quiet and darkness of December, separated from our loved ones, God whispers to us, and we strain to hear. We are called to:

Listen from deep within.
And listed on behalf of others.
Whole communities can find their humanity
if a few keep on listening.

Whole communities can find their humanity.
if a few keep on listening.
It is not always necessary to listen for words and instructions.

To listen simply for signs of life
is enough to make the connection.

(Advent Readings from Iona, November 29)

In the listening from the deep, we hear the whispers of hope, and the world waits with us.

Photo credit: David Long-Higgins


About the Author

Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald

Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald served in parish ministry for nine years before being named the Area Conference Minister for the Grand West Association of the Michigan Conference United Church of Christ. She serves on the community board at Pilgrim Manor, a United Church Homes community. Ruth has two grown children and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first grandchild. Hiking, knitting, and reading fill her "spare" time.

View all articles by Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald