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Week One: HOPE with expectation

 

“The days are coming,” says the Lord, “when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah” (Jeremiah 33: 14).

 

Who can read this verse without adding an exclamation point? Our “child’s heart” leaps at the thought of God’s promise fulfilled. We remember gently bending back paper doors on Advent calendars in anticipation of Christmas day. In my childhood bilingual home full of Polish customs, Christmas Eve or Wigilia (“The Vigil”) was the most anticipated time of the holy season. In the early evening of every December 24th, as our home filled with fragrant smells of handmade pierogi and savory borscht, the children were sent to search the sky for the first star. We barreled into the backyard without layering on winter coats. Shivering and giggling, we scanned the darkening sky with hopeful eyes. This tradition was (and is) a glorious revelation of promise fulfilled. We knew God placed the stars in the sky and would do so this very night as we waited for the first pointing finger and joyful shout, “There! The first star!” Dashing through the backdoor, bumping shoulders, we burst into the kitchen to bring the good news to our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We saw the star! Shouts of joy filled the house, as if the star was enough; as if this was the first time a star appeared in the sky; as if in some miraculous way, the promise was fulfilled in that one Light. After prayer, the meal began. One large table extended from living room to kitchen. Elbows collided, knees touched, but no one complained that one place setting always left spaciously open. My dziadzi explained to his grandchildren that this was how we welcomed the Christ Child to our table. He placed a candle in the window with hope that a stranger would see the light and come share our meal. This visitor, like John the Baptist, would be a messenger reminding us to “make ready the way of the Lord [and] clear him a straight path” (Mark 1: 3). Because extended family lived all around us, there was always an unexpected guest. Ah, the joy of hearing that knock at the door, the lively guesses as to who would be on the other side, the scramble to open the door to reveal who was there, and the realization that we had prepared for this visitor. All that we hoped for during the days of lighting the Advent candles were fulfilled as we sat scrunched together, sharing simple foods and keeping vigil for the coming of Our Lord and Savior. My “grown-up” faith, like yours, is informed by childhood traditions of expectation. Not only at Advent but at all times, I must remind myself to use my “child’s eyes” as I lookout for other less tangible first stars, those day-to-day ordinary signifiers of God’s extraordinary promise fulfilled. I must prepare a welcoming place for the Christ Child in whatever form and time He arrives. In childlike hope, during this first week of Advent, please join me as I pray, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and for You, I wait all the day” (Psalm 25: 5).

 

— Anita N. Voelker, Ph.D. associate professor of education

 

 


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