by Gary Dyck
“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” – Fredrick Buechner
The four weekly themes of Advent (Christmas) are hope, peace, joy, and love. If we expect to always be filled with those four sentiments and nothing else, we are sure to be let down. This year we look at the mixed emotion for each of these themes. Hopefully it will help support those who are overwhelmed by living up to a high standard and instead appreciate these beautiful themes from the bottom up.
This week looks to hope. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear,” could also be said of the paradox of hope. Hope is not the absence of doubt, but rather the abiding belief that something else is greater than doubt. To have hope doesn’t mean we don’t also have doubt. To truly appreciate hope we also need to feel doubt and let it move us to hope.
It is human to have these darker, more base emotions in us. A faith or hope that forbids all doubt will soon create a community that is unauthentic. People, especially during Christmas, need space to process all their emotions, instead of being expected to be happy all the time. Doubt should not be an obstacle to avoid, but a promising signpost on the journey to greater hope.
In High School my bus ride home was an hour long. Fortunately, my seatmate was an excellent conversationalist and I had much to learn from his guitar playing. How could he play so fast? How did he know all the chords? He answered my questions alright, but it was an unsolicited comment that left me amazed. ‘What makes a musician special is knowing when not to play,’ he said. ”If every musician in a band has to be playing at all times it would sound ridiculous.” Since then, my favourite moment of a live song is the pregnant silence between the final note and the rapt applause of the audience. What silence is to music, doubt is to hope. It helps us to appreciate the music when it does arrive.
This Christmas let us take time to feel the fullness of the Advent themes. Before we shout “Merry Christmas” or sing “Joy to the World!” we need melancholic songs like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” To contemplate where we are as a people. To cry. And then hope again.
The ‘Mennonites at War’ exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is extended until April 2nd, 2022. I encourage you to visit it this season and ponder why the war machine continues to oppress so many in the world and why some of us decide to join in and some of us stay apart. Also, this Thursday, November 25th we will be showcasing the Volendam film of when Mennonites fled the Soviet Union. It was a time full of hopes and doubts as they left Europe in 1947 on the Volendam ship. Our hope is that you can see MHV as a safe place for doubts and hopes to be felt and learnt from.
MHV gift shop and galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday.
Film Showing: Volendam – A Refugee Story, November 25th 7:30pm. The MHV Auxiliary is hosting a film night with Director Andrew Wall of Refuge 31 Films. Andrew will discuss his feature documentary examining the story of the Russian Mennonite refugees who fled west with the retreating German Army during World War Two. A risky plan, involving the American Military, multiple governments, aid organizations and the Queen of the Netherlands. It all would hinge on an old transport ship called Volendam… Admission is $10/person. Proof of vaccination will be required, and Coffee/Dessert will be available for purchase.