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Reflections from Rev. Emily Gage

What Does It Mean To Be a People of Hope?

I was late turning in this column to our publications person, which is (fairly) unusual for me. I ran into her in the office and she checked in with me to see if I had simply forgotten to send it. “No,” I said, “I’ve just been busy and didn’t get to it yet. I’m sorry.” She seemed relieved. “The topic is hope. I was afraid maybe you were having trouble writing it.” I assured her the roadblocks were logistical rather than theological, but I have been pondering this ever since. These are trying times, in many ways, and we all need reminders that connect us to hope. Sometimes we desperately need them. Sometimes they are hard to find. And being connected with hope seems essential. Pearl Buck suggested, “To eat bread without hope is still slowly to starve to death.”

Although my life story, told in retrospect, looks like it was leading me along the path to ordained ministry all along, it didn’t always seem like it at the time. But what I did know, even when I was a kid, was that somehow I would always be part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Without me even noticing, that connection to a community, to something larger than myself, to a vision of justice and hope and love, became an essential part of who I was and how I wanted to be in the world. My favorite day of the congregational year was then, and remains, Christmas Eve, with its special evening service, and the moment when all the candles were lit in a darkened sanctuary, and we all sang Silent Night. If I had to think of an image that conjured up hope for me, it would probably be that. It’s a moment where beauty and love and all good things fill up my heart and bring tears to my eyes.

December, of course, is a great time to be living into hope. Its very calendar is full of holidays that celebrate the human spirit resisting and soaring despite all odds. Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication oil lasting eight days when it looked like there was only enough for one day; enough to make the temple sacred and holy again, enough to hold on until more oil could be obtained. The Earth Centered calendar honors the shortest day of the year before the return of the light, and I always think of how it must literally have seemed the sun would never come back. Christmas, of course, is related to that, and also about how a baby born is new life, new possibility, the best promise of something different in a world  full of difficulty.

This month is an opportunity for each of us to consider what gives us hope as individuals, and as we consider the full question posed to us: What does it mean to be a people of hope? — It’s an opportunity to reflect on how we bring one another hope in relationship, in community.

A few weeks ago, during our Thanksgiving Worship for All Ages, we invited everyone present to consider one gift or special thing about themselves, which they then wrote down on a strip of paper. We connected them all, and it’s made a beautiful multicolored chain, gracing our 1019 South Blvd. building. Just reading what people wrote gives me hope; we are abundant in gifts, enough to buoy up (hopefully) any spirit. Here are some examples of the gifts or special things people wrote: I make great lasagna, I give great hugs, listening to others, compassion, patience, I love to dance, good at making people feel good about themselves, organizing, helping children see their potential, I show up, playing guitar, strategic thought, resiliency, healer, swimming, great storyteller, acceptance, making quilts, gymnastics, algebra, good little sister, riding my bike, kind and forgiving, quick decision maker, giving fabulous dinner parties, I can repair clocks, I make a great tossed salad, good at talking to strangers, creative, and on and on the list goes.

So much hope. May you know, this month, that you are surrounded by and connected to hope.