BY ANNA FERGUSONDecember 9, 2014

Advent is a season of hope.

I sit in a church pew feeling called out, being encouraged to listen to the hard truth that I contribute to systems that oppress people. Our parish is coming to grips with the fury of Ferguson, with the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and, still, Trayvon Martin as we enter into the second week of Advent. As our Interim Pastor eases us into a gentle but honest homily on what Ferguson has to do with Isaiah 40, and what God is asking of our mostly white community of faith, it is the first time I can’t escape the reality in which I exist. It’s the first time I honestly come to terms with what Ferguson means to me.

I feel shock more than anything. It’s hard to understand the truth of these situations or the role I play in them. Hard facts get muddled with hard feelings, anger spreads like wild fire and worst of all is apathy, ignorance. I am a white college student who wants to go into some kind of ministry one day. I am privileged more than I can know. I am not racist. I am not a police officer nor am I black, and I will never know what those things are like. I was not there for Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin’s deaths. What is clear while sitting in this pew, though, is that regardless of any of those points, I contribute to a system that oppresses people. And the hardest part of this is admitting that such injustices even exist, which is what I’m being asked to do.

Advent is a season of hope.

Do I believe that? As I sit in my pew, taking an honest look at my heart, and the things going on in the world, I take a minute to scream at God.

I don’t understand these things going on, I don’t see you in Ferguson or in New York. And I don’t see you in the suffering family members, I don’t see you in broken friendships and painful losses, I don’t see you in the fear and the confusion. Where are you? Where is the hope? How do we walk out of something like this?

When I’m done ranting, what I’m left with is the realization that hope is what we are left to grasp for when we have literally nothing left, when we cannot imagine how to keep moving forward. And that hope, that thing that we’re supposed to grab hold of, is the conviction that when all else fails, love will somehow overcome.

That is exactly where God is for me. God is in that kind of hope that comes when I admit I don’t know what to do in a situation, when I’m all out of excuses, answers and the ability to keep standing on my own. God is that hope that somehow love will step in and impossibly turn things around. When I am done with running, done with trying to fix it on my own, done with pride, love steps in. When I can no longer take false comfort in the fact that who I am and what I do is removed from societal sins, love steps in. When this suffering doesn’t make sense, when I have run out of ways to grapple with it, when I let myself realize the hard reality of it all, that is when somehow love steps in and takes over. Not on my time, not according to my will, but in the way that I need it to. That is hope.

Advent is a season of hope.

For too long I have operated under a false hope, the cheap hope society has offered me. I have hoped, in vain, that I can hide from Ferguson.

And I have given in to the lie of materialism that is sadly so strong this time of year. I have mistakenly placed my hope in what gifts might be waiting for me under my Christmas tree. I’ve learned, though, that no gift can mend the broken places in my life, nor can I expect it to heal the brokenness in this world. No gift is going to change what happened in Ferguson or New York.

So as I sit in this pew, feeling the shock and confusion of what looks like racism—of what is hard to admit is racism and my role in it—feeling the pain of lost, broken, absent hope, I realize this hope was bankrupt all along. I hear in the priest’s words the challenge to reach for the hope that is a love that overcomes all. It is a love that asks us to be honest with where we have fallen short of loving others, with where our comfort has inspired apathy, to be vulnerable in our honesty and in that vulnerability let Love come.

It is in this vulnerability that I can allow the true, deep hope of a vulnerable infant boy promising salvation fill my heart and inspire a faith that does justice.

When I leave my pew and exit the Church after Mass, I am reassured of this:

Advent is a season of hope.




1 reply
  1. Lynda
    Lynda says:

    Anna, thank you for this insightful post. I am humbled by your wisdom at such a young age. May God’s love and peace and joy comfort you and ignite you this Christmas and in 2015.


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