Advent is upon us. Christmas is near.

This is a complicated month for many. I struggle with discerning how to move through this season with The Dale, a community that acknowledges how hard Christmas can be when one has lost or is estranged from family, when money is scarce and the weather is cold. Most of us feel deep resentment at the commercialization of it all.
Some would prefer to close their eyes and have them open on January 1st. For many this is not “the most wonderful time of the year”.

It is because of these sentiments that I long to strip away the trappings of Christmas and look at the overall story. When we lit our first advent candle last Sunday, we were invited to think of the hope that its light represents. Advent provides us with an opportunity to remember that Jesus was, is and is to come. We are asked participate in this hope, to wait with longing for the story to be made complete.

On Wednesday night, as we do every week, a group of us wandered around Parkdale. One of our community members commented that he is becoming a healthier human since becoming involved with The Dale. I asked him what he meant. He described how isolated he used to be, that he never had contact with anyone other than his pets. Now he has friends. Bit by bit he is drinking and smoking dramatically less, losing pounds and finding God. He proudly announced, “I’m not even dreading Christmas”.

I couldn’t stop smiling. My friend has discovered, kind of like the Grinch, that Christmas doesn’t evaporate when you take away the gifts, the tree, the ornaments or even the ‘roast beast’. As lovely as those things are (and we will even bring some of those things to The Dale), this season is about remembering the arrival of Jesus, anticipating the time when He will rule with truth, justice and righteousness, and confessing our own responsibility to be people who love God and love our neighbour. As is true with my friend, we are learning to hope one little step at a time.

candle