Between Hope and Despair: An Advent Message
By Wayne Allensworth
As we await the resolution of Trump’s efforts to contest the election outcome—and plenty of people now see the lawsuit filed by Texas and supported by a number of other states as the best way to do that—we should remind ourselves that public affairs are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. And that when matters seem to be out of control, we still have cause for hope.
This is a note to my family that I wrote recently. I intended it as an Advent message:
Excuse me if I’ve sent this to a couple of you before, I just can’t recall. It’s a strikingly beautiful hymn (“Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”) with a tune composed in France much later than the origin of the lyric, which was originally a prayer from the Liturgy of St. James in the 4th century.
It’s quite moving and is usually played during Advent. There are scores of versions of it on YouTube.
We sang it in church recently. It’s a haunting hymn, poignant and evocative, but one that gives us comfort.
As the light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day
That the powers of Hell vanish as the Darkness clears away.
Here’s another version as performed by the Duke University Chapel Choir:
It’s difficult to believe sometimes, so I focus on the Incarnation, on God, through Christ, taking on all the burdens and pain of our human existence. He has not abandoned us, even if at this very difficult time we drift somewhere between hope and despair. Relish the moments of joy as they come. Bear the sorrows as they, too, will come. Life couldn’t have any real meaning without either of them.
“Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Wayne Allensworth is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine. He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood.