Finding light in a weary world

  • Written by Karen Bonar, Catholic News Service
  • Published in Commentary
In a world weary from a year of COVID-19, the season of Advent offers hope. Photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review In a world weary from a year of COVID-19, the season of Advent offers hope. Photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

“Can you believe people are putting their Christmas decorations up already?” an acquaintance asked me the first week of November. “I’m used to the stores starting Christmas earlier and earlier every year, but not my family or friends.”

I paused to think.

“Yes, I can believe it,” I replied.

Here’s why: 2020 has been a difficult year for almost everyone I know. We are exhausted (or is it just me?). We are digging deep. We are leaning into difficulties and obstacles we could never have imagined. And we need some hope.

Luckily, the church provides us hope in a liturgical sense with Advent. Each year, the four weeks leading up to Christmas are set aside, with the invitation to each of us to prayerfully prepare and wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ.

When I look ahead to 2021, I wonder, “Will it be more of the same? More sleepless nights? More anticipation and concern about remote school starting at the flip of a switch? More division in our country? Our families?”

If I’m being completely honest, it’s difficult to feel anything but weary these days.

This makes me think of a line from the song “O Holy Night”? that says, “The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

I’m absolutely weary, but am I rejoicing?

As 2020 marches toward December 31, I’ve spent some time reflecting and comparing it to the close of 2019. It was a tough year for me. I had a sinus infection for four months, and closed out 2019 with a bout of whooping cough — just for fun (sigh, not really). At the close of 2019, I was looking forward with eager anticipation, with joy, to 2020. I was going to be healthy. Things were going to be different and look up. I felt like there was an abundance of hype about a new decade.

Then, COVID-19 happened across our country and around the world.

Yes, my family and I celebrated some fun “firsts” in 2020, such as my son’s first trip on an airplane, the first full week of vacation out of state in many years and the first time to receive awards from the Catholic Press Association. There were some good times, but I felt more weary than rewarded in 2020.

As I write this, it’s two weeks before Thanksgiving, and I’ve started to notice Christmas trees going up in my neighbors’ front windows. I see Christmas lights being hung on their homes. (I never took the singular strand of lights down from our house last year, so we’re ready for Christmas!)

I paused to reflect if this early preparation I’m seeing bothers me: Christmas in early November.

Honestly, I go back to my earlier comment. In a weary world, I feel like we need some hope. We need some light. We need some joy. The season of Christmas certainly encompasses all of those things.

As the days grow shorter and nightfall comes earlier, let’s place our Advent wreaths on our dining room tables. Let’s dim the lights. Let’s light each candle. Let’s see the tiny flame and prepare for the fire of Christ that will come at Christmas.

I know it’s difficult, but together we can find a little hope.

Karen Bonar is editor of The Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Salina, Kansas.