Tonight I had the privilege of watching my daughter Beth (above right) perform as a dancer in our school’s annual Advent program. This night is among my favorite events of the Advent season, and the ninth such event I’ve had the honor of attending. Even better, Beth’s godmother, Katie, is the dance choreographer. On this particular night, it is so easy to feel joy, pride, peace and hope.
I still remember with vividness the first such Advent program I witnessed. As I watched the grace of the dancers flitting about the worship space, absorbed the colors of their costumes and the banners used for dramatic effect, and heard the sweet voices of the readers and singers sharing words of the hope surrounding this season of…(looking around in every direction…) CHRISTMAS (…oh yeah, baby, did that feel good!!!), I thought, “Yes. YES! This is why we have made the sacrifice to have our kids attend Catholic schools!” On this night, our children are free to express what it’s all about, without hesitation, without embarrassment. They are free to shine light and spread the good news that our Lord and Savior is coming to dwell among us. This all feels so real and right and lovely that it can only have been inspired by God himself.
And speaking of God, recently I was having a conversation with my 13-year-old, who told me about a conversation that had taken place in seventh-grade religion class. “Mom, our teacher said that in order to believe in God, we may at some point have to take a leap of faith. But I was thinking about that, and I think it’s harder to go the other way — to try to believe God doesn’t exist.”
Wow. I mean, yeah, girl, you are right! (I love it when my kids get me thinking about something in a fresh, new way.) Sure, most Christians have moments of doubt, but when witnessing something like tonight’s Advent program, it is much, much harder to deny the existence of a loving, omnipotent Creator.
Nevertheless, I accidentally happened upon the blog of an atheist recently called Heaving Dead Cats. In the post I read, the writer was explaining her epiphany that though she detests everything about the Christmas holiday (naturally), she was considering celebrating something so as to not feel like such a Scrooge. As I read her post, “Letting the Holiday Pendulum Come to the Middle,” I couldn’t help but feel sad that she’s likely never felt the warmth of the light within the Christian faith, and because of that, she’s been reduced to making fun of all things Christian and creating silly traditions as a sort of protest of what she finds ridiculous and distasteful. In another part of her blog, I found quotes like this: “Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers.” — Bruce Calvert and “It’s not a war on Christmas…It’s a war on false gods, false prophets, and false promises.”
I read those words and see a blatant disconnect between that which she believes to be the case and that which I’ve experienced. And I wish that she’d realize that we Christians are thinkers who still believe, and that Jesus is the most real thing that’s ever happened to the world, and that God brought her into being.
Certainly, we Christians don’t get it right every time. In fact, we mess up a whole lot! We sin, we doubt, we diverge from the path at times. But at the very least, if we do try stay the course, there is something called hope that shines brightly upon our horizon. This (hope) is something that atheists can have in only small degrees, since in their view, the world ends when it ends and that’s that. The Christian mentality (reality I would say) hinges on living as well as we can now to prepare for the Peaceable Kingdom to come.
That’s what tonight’s program was themed: The Peaceable Kingdom. And tonight, I can’t help but feel profoundly grateful for hope, for light, for the prospect of peace. I’m thankful for my son, Adam, for singing so well; for my daughter, Beth, for dancing and singing with such beauty; and for my daughter, Olivia, for reminding me that the backward leap of faith is much more likely to land me on my bottom than the one which propels me forward and into hope.
Q4U: How do you cultivate hope?