It’s no secret that I am an ocean girl. As long as I can remember, the ocean has been my place of solace, renewal, and recentering. I love the beach in every season and when it is too long between visits, the yearning for salt air and sand between my toes deepens to a kind of hunger. Pandemic and my own health concerns meant that I went for more than two years without a visit to the ocean.
Over the summer, I had sabbatical which meant lots of time at the beach. I had anticipated this sabbatical time for years, because COVID delayed. Everything seemed to be either before sabbatical or after. The sabbatical time itself was truly a gift of renewal. When I returned home, though, I had to reorient myself.
For years sabbatical was on the horizon. And the horizon was bright. When I came home and returned to work, I didn’t have anything planned, anything to look forward, anything to dream about. I floundered and felt unsettled through September, October, and most of November. Then something happened a few days ago.
I was walking the dog through the woods as I often do. We took a new trail which led away from other people who were walking through the park. Snow crunched under my feet. Snow rustled through the few crispy leaves still clinging to the trees. I was lost in thoughts about my upcoming Advent sermon, barely taking in my surroundings.
Then the dog pulled on his leash and I looked up just in time to see a small herd of deer leaping through the woods. They made slightly more noise than the rustling wind, and I would have missed them if the dog hadn’t drawn my attention to them. In that moment, I was filled with a sense of peace, a kind of grounding. I was anchored again.
And ready for Advent. The traditional first Sunday in Advent is Hope. Advent Hope isn’t about the hope we put in people, places, plans, or things. Advent Hope is about God and the way we are invited to seek, receive, and embody the hope Divine Love brings into the world, and to keep awake, keep watch for those moments God will break into the world again.
We hope in God; God Hopes in us. May we all find those places of solace that nurture our spirits and remind us that there is more to the world than what human beings alone can do.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author, and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com