Advent comes quickly upon the heels of Thanksgiving this calendar year. The juxtaposition of these two experiences brings to mind this simple prayer:
For all that has been, thanks.
For all that will be, yes.
Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations Secretary-General from 1953 to 1961, was also a theologian, poet, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961. He penned this prayer in his journal shortly before his death. It captures a tender moment of reconciling the past with the future, of all that has been with all that will be. Really, it is a moment of peacefully reconciling the known with the unknown.
Gathered with family and friends, at least in spirit, on Thanksgiving Day, we look back to appreciate what really matters. We look back to remember the labor and love of generations before who have brought us to this time and place, and we are grateful.
Then quickly on Sunday we begin the Advent journey. We move from the known to the unknown. Oh, we know the Advent story…at least the Bible story. But that’s just the beginning. The Advent story for us is an unfolding story not yet fully known. It begins with Mary’s "yes." But the story unfolds with our "yes" that we hopefully pray each day. No roadmap or signed contract. We say "yes" to the unknown, "yes" for all that will be.
Perhaps you can find a moment to reflect this week on this oft-quoted poem by English poet Minnie Louise Haskins: "I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!"
On Thanksgiving Day pray, "For all that has been, thanks." And on each day of Advent pray, "For all that will be, yes."
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.