A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1
Hope is a fickle and fleeting; hope shows up unannounced and can leave just as quick; hope is intrusive and refuses to be ignored. And yet, if you asked me which of the four Advent candles we will light in church in the coming four weeks (hope, peace, joy, and love) is the most important, I would not hesitate to say, "Hope!"
Hope is as elusive as a snowball in Florida this time of year. Hope is slippery and can quickly turn to wishing; which is not the same as hoping. Hoping is active, hope makes demands upon our very lives. Wishing is more passive. I can make list after list of wishes, but once I write down my hopes, they stake a claim on my life.
It is difficult to define hope. The dictionary uses words like "desire and expectation" or a "feeling of trust" or "something to happen". But that seems to be dancing around what is at the heart of hope. Hope is a vision that today does not need to be like yesterday; and tomorrow need not be like today. Hope refuses to stay stuck in a rut. Hope is movement and momentum toward a vision of what can be. There is a vulnerability to hope, because life experience teaches us quickly that we do not always live in the land of Hope. Hope is like a small green shoot that springs forth from a cut of stump. Isaiah invokes the name of Jesse, who was the father of the great (albeit flawed and totally human) King David. King David was seen as the embodiment of God's promise to be with God's people. King David was idealized and romanticized in some of the books of the Bible; and brought down to earth quicker that you can say, "TMZ" in other books of the Bible. But when Babylon came in 740 BCE and overthrew the Northern Kingdom of the promised land; then conquered the southern part in 588 BCE...the best of times became the worst of times. The people felt cut off, chopped off, separated from God. Where is hope then? Or as the psalmist says, "How can we sing to God in a foreign land (meaning Babylon)?" Where is your hope when you cannot find the words or the Christmas carols sound out of tune and sync with your life?
How would you define hope?
What do you hope for in these dwindling days of 2014 and as 2015 dawns around us?
Yet, hope keeps showing up. Hope keeps knocking and telling us that God is not done with us yet. God keeps showing up, often in the most unlikely ways, like an infant born to two unwed parents. Like a itinerant preacher two thousand years ago, who call twelve nobodies to follow him, and they did! Like a love that Rome thought they could squelch by a cross, but love wins on Easter morning. That kind of hope keeps persisting and pressing for God's realm. In many ways I think saying the Lord's prayer is an act of hope. So, this week, keep awake and alert and aware of hope in your life. Try saying the Lord's prayer every day and look for the ways hope is showing up...and may those moments you are captured by hope be a trace of God's grace this Advent season.