Updated: Dec 2, 2019
“Get out the bed, Reverend. We gon have joy today.”
Dustin is one of those friends who crossed the threshold to becoming a true brother. It’s the only thing that gives him license to FaceTime me first thing in the morning to talk about absolutely nothing. But, unlike the countless mornings when he makes me regret giving him that privilege, he had good reason this Sunday morning.
November is hard. Mama died on November 14, 2015; her funeral was just a few days before Thanksgiving. On November 18, my Aunt Dolly would have been 70 years old. I stood beside my grandmother, uncle and cousin as she took her last breath three months ago. And, even though I can often be highly functioning in the midst of depressive moments, my friends knew the weight of this November would be too much to shoulder alone.
So Dustin did what he does best: he got on my last nerves and he got me out bed. Clothed in my leopard print bonnet and mother’s nightgown, I resigned myself to let the days pass by without me officially greeting them. Dustin, however, had other plans. He sang “Hold On (Change is Coming)” by Sounds of Blackness and would not stop singing until I pulled the blinds and brought light into my loft apartment. The longer I was out of bed, the more he shuffled through his mental music collection. Frankie Beverly. Aretha. Stevie. Nina. Donny. I joined in and made a few requests. Before I knew it, I was drinking hot tea and was ready to face a day I had already decided to despise.
We live in a world that is starving for hope– we know this. Every day, we encounter something that makes it even more impossible to believe in better days. Scrolling my social media timelines, watching the news and remembering who occupies the White House have all been enough to deplete whatever reserves of hope I tried to keep for harder times. And if that wasn’t enough, so many of us are dealing with personal pains and tragedies that make the maintenance of hope seemingly impossible. We need a miracle, an infusion of that which will keep us alive.
While in seminary, I overhead one of my professors talking to a doctoral student facing challenging times in their program and personal life. Our professor repeated the same sentence, “keep hope alive”, three times and emphasized a different word each time. The student became overcome with emotion as our professor spoke life into them and so did I. Though I wasn’t the intended recipient, it was a moment and an instruction that I will remember for the rest of my life.
This Advent, I share with you "...and is to come.": A Theology of Hope For Advent. It is a collection of songs that have kept me and my friends alive in some of our darkest times. These aren’t the traditional songs we hear during this season. Yet, they all embody what this holy time means. Christ is coming and that will change everything. Who we are and who we should be to each other will be mediated through this tiny, amazing bundle of Brown flesh. The light in his eyes is the hope for the world and, no matter what forces tried to dim it, they did not win. We need to be reminded that we win. In a world that wants us to believe that destruction and despair are our birthright, we have to find the courage to say “not so” and believe we will see the manifestation of good things in our lifetime.
We deserve full love. We deserve happy endings. We deserve to see all of our dreams come true. All of that and so much more is possible for us. I’m glad that, when I could not, Dustin and my loved ones saw it for me. I hope this playlist does the same for you.