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Saturday, 12/15/2018  Pag.B03Copyright © 2018 Frederick News-Post 12/15/2018

Words of Faith

The Rev. Toni Fish

In many traditions around the world, this dark time of the year is a time for celebrating the Light and its promise of a new day. In the ancient Druid tradition, there were fires lit to celebrate the power of the light to overcome the long, dark days of winter. In the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh traditions, Diwali is a time when houses are filled with lamps and diyas, lit in celebration of prosperity and the idea of good winning over evil. In the Jewish tradition, Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated with the lighting of eight candles as a symbol of igniting the positive light of unity and love above a growing divisiveness. In the African- American tradition, the celebration of Kwanzaa also incorporates the lighting of seven candles, honoring cultural heritage and values.

In the Christian tradition, many Christians light the candles in the Advent wreath, four candles representing hope, peace, joy and love, and the white candle in the center represents the spirit of God that is ever present in each of us. This lighting symbolizes the coming of the Light that is God in and through the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

This year, as I prepared for the Advent season at Unity, I realized that our Unity Advent booklet is using Faith instead of Hope for the first Sunday. I was interested in knowing why the change occurred, so I decided to do some research on the traditions to see if I could figure out why the shift happened.

Lo and behold, while hope, peace, joy and love appeared to be the most often used, there are traditions that use faith, hope, joy and peace. While I didn’t get an answer to why Unity chose to shift to faith from hope,
I did realize that I needed to get clear for myself about the difference between faith and hope and what that might mean for me in the Christmas season.

On any search, my first step was to get some definitions. In Webster’s online dictionary, faith is defined as (1) complete trust or confidence in someone or something; (2) strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. In Unity, our co-founder, Charles Fillmore, defined faith as “the perceiving power of the mind linked with the power to shape substance.” Hope, in Webster’s online dictionary, is defined as (1) a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; (2) ARCHAIC — a feeling of trust. The Fillmore definition of hope is “the expectation of good in the future — a quality of the material mind that is subject to time.” I must admit that these definitions did not bring me much clarity. The definitions by Webster and Fillmore present faith as trust in “something” — trust in myself, trust in God, trust in the sun rising each morning, trust in the goodness of humankind and, as Cynthia Bourgeault writes in her book “Mystical Hope,” they present hope today as “tied to outcome. We would normally think of it as an optimistic feeling — or at least a willingness to go on — because we sense that things will get better in the future.”

And this is not what resonates with me as hope or faith, especially at Christmas time. I believe that there is a field of potentiality in which we “swim” just as the fish swims in the ocean — this potentiality, this energy is what we are made of and what connects us as one. Our true nature is the vibration of the Divine. 

During this time of transition through the long night to the return of the sun, this Christmas season, we are called to a conscious awareness of ourselves and our world as this vibrational energy, how it fills us, enfolds us, and radiates with us.

For me, this knowing that we are light energy is hope, an abiding state of being.

Bourgeault calls this Mystical Hope, that which “lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions ... it is the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.”

Hope is that Divine potentiality — regardless of what the circumstances are that surround us. When we hold this Divine potentiality as the ocean in which we live and move and have our being, each new day is new birth, filled with infinite possibilities and light. At Christmastime, the story of the birth of the Christ serves as a beautiful reminder that hope is the infinite reality and ours to claim.
In claiming that reality, we find ourselves changed, changed in how we see ourselves and how we see others, changed in what we value in life, and changed in what we do with our talents, our time, and our treasure. This Spirit of Christmas is the Christ Spirit manifesting.

From this abiding state of being, we create a personal reality that comes as we find direct communication through our heart and mind to the Oneness that is God.

This is faith — taking the first step of the journey to Bethlehem, the first step inward to my self, the first step to new beginnings when we aren’t sure what the rest of the journey looks like. We just know that it is a Divine possibility. We are Mary and Joseph, the three Magi, the shepherds filled with hope and acting in faith to bring forth and honor the Christ that is in each of us. In hope and with faith, we find joy, peace and love.

And so during the Advent season, we light our Advent candles and join with the rest of humanity in honoring the return of the light, the return of the son as we light candles of hope and faith, peace, joy and love.

Lighting these candles reminds us that, as the grown man Jesus said to his disciples, we are the light of the world, and that our light will always drive away darkness.

May you shine brightly this Christmas season.