Liminality is one of those “$20 words” having to do with being in being an intermediate state, phase, or condition – in other words, betwixt-and-between. The year 2020 is certainly a liminal year living between the pandemic’s start and the all too uncertain end. And such times are replete with stories. There are stories that affect us all; there are one that are personal – but there are always stories.
With winter’s approach and these hard economic times, there will soon be a story in the paper about a family huddled around the gas kitchen stove on a winter’s eve because the electricity bill is unpaid, and power is cut off. Somewhere there is a family huddled in the ER waiting room; their oldest child in an automobile accident, the surgeons coming to say, “We’re doing all we can.” Maybe it’s a loved one in the covid ICU. These are the moments you wish the world would end, at least the world as you now know it.
There are reminders that the world remains betwixt-and-between as we try to carry on with some degree of normalcy even as the pandemic accelerates. Yesterday’s Macy’s Parade is one example. It was held, but 75% the size and it was basically filmed in Herald Square and not along the usual Manhattan parade route.
The between times are not new to believers. These are the times between the Christ child’s coming and the King who will return. Times that we are called to live in hope. To live in hope, because we know how the story ends. The ending has been written by the resurrected Christ. And yet we still fear, we know trepidation, and there is hesitation, avoidance, and the desire that it all just goes away. And so, we wait.
Advent is the season of waiting; a time filled with stories and uncertainty. But stories that challenge us, even if we are terribly uncertain about tomorrow, to live in hope.
How will we live in the time given us?
I remember one line from the final movie in the Hunger Games when the evil president, Coriolanus Snow, notes, “Too much hope can be a dangerous thing.” The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, knows the odds will never be in her favor, and yet she hopes, and inspires hope. Life chooses her story for her. She has no choice on the when and where she will live in the time given. She only has the choice on how to live. Over the course of the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss answers the question of how she will. Sometimes reluctantly, sometimes heroically Katniss chooses to live in the way that brings hope. She lives in a way that brings the light of hope into a world fraught with fear. She does not bring just a little hope, measured out and rationed. She comes to understand that without hope or too little hope, the world ends in a whimper or stay stuck huddled around a gas stove or forever in the emergency waiting room. Her extraordinary choices give hope and begin to change the world.
We are called to bring, not just a little hope, but hope that is a writ large because of the life Christ. The kind of hope that create something new wherever it is sown. It is hope that fuels change in our lives, our homes, our parish, our communities and our world. Change can be hard. But whatever hardships or limitations we may now endure, hope rooted in Christ creates a better future and leads one to act, to do something to bring about that better future.
Without hope life simply gets increasingly more difficult. With hope you can do extraordinary things.
A young girl named Mary chooses hope when she says “be it done unto me according to your word.”
A man named Joseph chooses hope when he takes Mary as his wife.
We say that Advent is a time of waiting. I am not sure that is fully correct. Advent is a time of Hope, time to risk extraordinary things, time to be not afraid. The time to stand up and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand. A season to be intentional about the time given us.
How will you use the time given you?