A year ago, not one of us would have guessed that this Advent Season would be as valuable as it is. Advent has always been an important time to rehearse our hope in God’s love and care as experienced in the coming of Jesus. But who knew that in this Advent season, our proclamation of hope, peace, and goodwill would be interrupted by a killer virus?
You are not alone in your feelings of disappointment, discouragement, weariness, and despair. It has been a long nine months of starts and stops, of foggy vision, and wondering what to do next. Whether you feel it or not, you have done well in providing leadership at critical moments along the way.
A Critical Moment
This advent season is another critical moment. The world, our communities, our churches are facing the unknown of COVID-19. We have not experienced a time like this in recent history. What we know is, when we face the unknown, our default setting is to focus upon every negative consequence imaginable. I usually say, “We make up what we don’t know.” It is a way of expressing fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. When we are anxious and fearful, we are often paralyzed. Because we don’t know what to do, we do nothing and blame those around us for our circumstances. That is why this is a critical moment.
This advent season provides you the opportunity to use your influence to offer hope and to lead a movement forward, shifting from the paralysis of fear to hopeful action. The question is, how do we make that shift?
An Advent Opportunity
There are many people working to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves. Most people are intentional in their care for one another and for themselves. I am grateful for the many acts of care I have noticed and for the reports I have received. You have done well.
To take advantage of our Advent opportunity and to help move forward, I want to share an image with you. It has been helpful to me as I have attempted to offer encouragement and hope.
A River of Hope or Despair?
Imagine a raging river full of rapids that surge over a waterfall. You see people struggling in the current of the river. As they are trying their best to swim to shore or grab a hold of rocks, they are being swept downstream toward the falls.
You also see people along the shore trying to help those struggling in the rushing currents. Some are reaching out at the edge of the falls to snatch victims at the last moment. Others are upstream, stepping out on the rocks to grab whomever they can reach. A bit further upstream there are some throwing out lifelines and pulling the struggling people to shore. Even further upstream there are some teaching people how to swim. You even notice that there are some trying to install fences along the river to prevent people from falling in. At the same time, you see others, gathered at the bottom of the falls, trying to recover and save the few who survived going over the edge.
Not one of the helpers along the river back can catch everyone in need, but together they each do their part along the way. The one thing they all have in common is a love for helping others.
Dispenser of Hope
So, here is your Advent opportunity. As a leader, decide to be a dispenser of hope. Build upon the love and care people have to offer. Give encouragement and support to those who are working to navigate the fear and anxiety of the time.
You know your present situation (current reality). You also know the goals you have in mind (mission). Now, how will you navigate the obstacles in the way? Your navigation of the obstacles will be where you become a hopeful leader and a dispenser of hope.
Here are some things to help in your navigation.
- Use the Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as ways of leading through the anxiety and fear of this time. Be forward-thinking, inspirational, and positive.
- Encourage the people entrusted to your care. Be generous with them. Focus upon their strengths and encourage them to be courageous in their leadership.
- Embrace change. The quickest path to growth and improvement is by embracing the changes that come your way. Be vulnerable. Step into the changes, even at the risk of not knowing what to do.
- Accept failure. Your failure is not final or fatal. Hopeful leadership requires courage and courageous leaders often fail. The question is, are you learning from what you have tried that did not work?
- Keep your heart and mind on the mission. Keep moving forward. Invite others to join you on the journey and encourage them to become courageous leaders. Because your hope is in God, be confident in your mission.
- Hold the future before the people entrusted to you. Hopeful leaders believe tomorrow holds great opportunities. Even when COVID-19 messes up schedules and routines, morale is low, and discouragement is high, hopeful leaders don’t sit back and let things happen. Hopeful leaders know where they are going and how to navigate the obstacles along the way.
- Follow through and do what you say you will do. No matter how significant or insignificant the task or assignment, get it done. Credibility is built over time because of hundreds and hundreds of small assignments done well.
So here is your Advent opportunity. Offer hope to those who are giving themselves in love to care for and to protect the people around them.
- Write a note of thanks to the individuals who have worn masks, kept their distance, and have helped in keeping protocols.
- Send an email or text of encouragement to the individuals who have been doing double duty. Whether as parents working at home and teaching their children at the same time, whether as care-givers to aging family members and neighbors, whether giving up social activities like not gathering in groups to play cards, or not gathering as family during special holiday meals, a note of encouragement and care goes a long way in offering hope.
- Be intentional in giving thanks and support to those healthcare providers, whether in hospitals or test sites, whether you know them personally or not, make the effort to share with them your gratitude and appreciation. Your support will become contagious.
- Proclaim with clarity and boldness the hope that God provides in and through Jesus. It is the Season of Advent that provides us the opportunity to remember and rehearse God’s love and care for us and for all people.
Don’t Get Swept into the River
Even at our best, not one of us can solve the COVID-19 crisis on our own. But as a team of people, as the Body of Christ, the church, we can do our part. We can link arms with those to our right and to our left and trust one another. It really does no one any good if any of us gets swept into the river as we try to help.
Throughout the remainder of this Advent Season be a dispenser of hope. What is the one thing you will do to instill hope and a positive vision in the people entrusted to your care? Okay. Now is the time to do it.
Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.