Saturday, December 10, 2005


Hope is a difficult word. I think of how I was as a child, so full of hope, sated with the idea that anything I wanted could someday happen. Then what happened? I grew up. I, like so many others, became jaded and cynical. Hope gave me an expectation of good things; without hope, I could not be disappointed. I was afraid to hope.

Two weeks ago, my favorite season of the liturgical year began - Advent. Advent means "coming." I love the way the liturgy during this time echoes the long years of hope and yearning before the coming of the Messiah. Such hope was foolish. The Old Testament writers and those living around them did not live to see the Messiah. Their ideas of what he would be like were probably very different from how the life of Jesus turned out. But their hope was not in vain. The centuries of God's people living out their lives in hope of the coming of the Messiah prepared the world for his coming. It is because of them that the woman at the well, St. Andrew, and Simeon were able to recognize him when he came.

Psalm 37 promises that if you "Find your delight in the Lord", then he "will give you your heart's desire." The other things that Psalm 37 talks about do not seem to have happened. The things we see each day on the news do not give much occassion for hope. Are we foolish to have such hope? Yet we know from the examples in the gospel that living out such hope will not be worthless. Our hopes may not be fulfilled when we wish for them to be fulfilled. Our hopes may not be fulfilled in the way we wish for them to be fulfilled. But without those expectations, we will never see when they are fulfilled, in God's time, in His way.

We can never know how the future will unfold, so with our hope will always come fear, but hope is characterized by its living on in the midst of that fear, like a a plant in the desert, thriving in the middle of what appears to be barren and never allowing the desert to overcome it.

Romans 8 "for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance."

Hope is a word of action, a flower opening up above the desert soil, not because it is certain that it can grow, but because it is certain that it must try. It is expanding into the desert air, not because its home is there or because it is leaving the ground behind, but because it knows that with roots deep in the soil, it is ready to begin pushing upward.

Perhaps hope is not something I should fear. The fear, yes, will continue on, but with the roots of my hope in the promises of Christ where they belong, I can continue to bring each of these smaller flowers of hope before him. These flowers each have a name. Some are the names of people I know. Some are the names of things I need to grow. Some are names of people I do not know, places I have never been. I bring these flowers to Christ, knowing that He, too, has called them by their names. They belong to Him, and in His hands, so much more capable than mine, I do not need to fear, only ask, confidently, to help in whatever small way I can.

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