Scripture: Psalm 126
Key verses: (5-6) “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”
Reflection: One of the most remarkable people I have ever read about is a woman named Maggy Barankitse, who is the founder and leader of an organization called Maison Shalom. Following the genocide in her home country of Burundi, Maggy sought a way to work for the welfare of children growing up in a community ravaged by violence and war. And so, she established an orphanage and a school. In one interview, though, Maggy shared that her vision was much bigger than that: she wanted the children not only to survive and have their basic needs met, but to flourish, which meant to her that they had to be given the opportunity to experience joy. So, with help, Maggy had a swimming pool dug into what were formerly killing fields, so that, in her words, the children could splash in the waters of baptism in a place that was once only a place of death and destruction.
Hope after pain. I can’t think of a more perfect way to describe what that might look like than to think about what Maggy’s pool did for the children in her care. It was an act of creative love that communicated her hope for them, which is that they wouldn’t only be defined by the tragedies they’d experienced. A hope that their lives might still be rich, if not without deep pain. That they might have access to joy.
This is the prayer of the psalmist, and the prayer we must pray for all of God’s children who have experienced tragedy, loss, or in the case of the psalm, exile. In the face of inexplicable suffering, we who follow Christ cling to the hope of joy for those who find themselves in seasons where they only have sorrow to offer. We can do this in many ways. We can pray. We can listen. We can cry. We can feed. We can remember difficult anniversaries and check in with those whose hearts are heavy. We can light candles. In Advent, we can open our hearts to the one in whom “the hopes and fears of all the years” meet, and are redeemed.
Pay attention when we light the Hope candle this year: for whom, specifically, might you pray? For whom, specifically, might you hold out hope in a tangible way?
Prayer: Dear God, in the midst of great sorrow, it is difficult to hold onto hope. Strengthen us to be creative in loving one another in ways that do not erase the deep pains of our lives, but acknowledge and honor them. Amen.
Author: Anna Dickson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].