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There’s no place like Hope for the holidays

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It was a long workday, well past the eight-hour mark. The chicken I got out of the freezer earlier was still frozen solid, so we ordered Thai delivery.

I had hoped to make chicken curry. I had hoped to not have another long workday. I had hoped to start some Christmas baking.

Our faith should place us a little farther along in the queue toward embracing Hope.

But here we were, my husband and I, chatting over piping hot pad see ew. I told him I had planned to write an op-ed for the Christmas issue that day, and I would have to tackle it after dinner.

I mused over possible topics, but none really spoke to me, none challenged me.

"Hope," he said. "Write about Hope."

I stared at him with an incredulous look. "You’re asking the girl whose glass is always half empty to write about Hope?" After 12 years of marriage, I thought he might know me better.

He reminded me of the photo he took a year ago at a Christmas tree sale — the trees were all stacked upright against wooden dividers in a big parking lot — sponsored by the Optimist Club.  His take on it: "This lot is always half full."

Hope comes naturally to some people. For others, it’s a skill to hone.

But I gave the hope angle more thought.

We’re on the cusp of the COVID-19 vaccine being available to more and more people. There’s some Hope we can all get behind.

The coronavirus pandemic is like a bad movie that never made it to theatres. Go back to the beginning, or the opening credits, with a murky start to the drama in China. We hoped it wouldn’t get more serious, then watched its pervasive spread across the globe like bird migration patterns.

The medical experts offered advice from the start, hoping it would make a difference. Fast forward to face masks becoming political and divisive. I can see the liquid draining from my glass.

As weeks and months went by, this hideous disease affected more and more people, now some were friends or family. Some, sadly, we lost; some continue their fight against it.

Is Hope the look in people’s eyes as they line up for food or rent assistance, swallowing their pride to ask for help knowing there is no other choice?

Was Hope standing shoulder to shoulder with the frontline workers? We’ll never know all the people in various professions who do their part for the rest of us. It reminds me of my parents’ stories from World War II on the combined "war effort."

Did Hope sneak into one of the little video boxes on virtual learning screens as teachers tried harder than ever to engage students, while parents held vigil over the process?

Hope might hang over the makeshift desk in the living room for those fortunate enough to telework from home as the workday often slides into nights and weekends. Is that the price for feeling safer away from the fray?

Isn’t this the liturgical season where Hope got its start?

We gather in prayer around the Advent wreath with Hope in the birth of a newborn who comes to save the world.

On the cusp of Christmas, we see Hope more clearly. We can almost touch it: in the clay figurine of the baby, the bowed heads of Mary and Joseph, even the look of awe in the eyes of the shepherds and the Wise Men just slightly offset.

We can hope this next year, 2021, will be better. We can hope we all get the vaccine as soon as possible. We can hope that all those suffering from the virus and the millions of families affected will find peace and healing. We can hope that we learned something this year, that we’ll emerge stronger and more centered on life’s important things.

So, this Christmas, I’m embracing Hope:

— that our glasses will be at least half full.

— that we find a way to share the joy of our faith and the peace this season brings to the world.

— that however we celebrate this Christmas, likely a bit different than in the past, we realize our faith should place us a little farther along in the queue toward embracing Hope.

Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Augherton, acting editor and general manager, can be reached at aaugherton@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @aughertonACH.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020