Monday, December 2, 2013

Welcome to Advent. Let's Hope.

The caption on the picture on the front of our Table of Grace brochures says “Where Hope is Alive!” It’s a bold statement to make, suggesting that we are a community of people who have not yet given up hope. We live in a world of dashed hopes, a world where one who continues to hope in the face of adversity may be seen as some kind of Pollyanna; or at least completely out of touch with reality. Most of us have mastered the art of dismissing our hopes in advance to save ourselves the disappointment later.

The first week of Advent calls us to hope. Not only does it call us to hope, it calls us to sit with that hope…to hold on to it, until we return the next week to light the next candle. I wonder if we are willing to be that vulnerable, to open ourselves up to hope that we hold onto for long enough to convince ourselves that the thing for which we hope might actually be a possibility.

I wonder if allowing ourselves to hope for better living conditions for the homeless people in our community would cause us to seek God’s guidance in helping to be a part of the solution. I wonder if having the audacity to hope for racial equality in our world would cause us to spend some time getting to know the people who don’t look like us, who we claim to want to liberate. I wonder if hoping that people in a village in Africa might someday have access to clean drinking water would encourage us to spend less on frivolous gifts this Christmas, and send the money we save to an organization that can make that happen. I wonder if allowing ourselves to hope for a government that represents our collective interests would push us into a level of civic engagement that begins to reclaim the voice of the people in the public sphere.

I wonder. And I hope. I hope that deep down, we know that God is alive in our biggest dreams and our greatest hopes. I hope that we recognize that God’s Spirit uses the creative space that hope provides to bring great transformation in our lives. I hope, above all else, that we can remember how to hope like a child counting down the months to a birthday or the days to Christmas; and that having remembered, we will start to live in our hope for days and weeks and months at a time. And perhaps that we will let ourselves believe the word of the Lord spoken through the prophet Jeremiah “For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

Our hope is a gift from God. Don’t shove it in the back of the closet like the ugly sweater your Aunt Sally gave you last Christmas, or the combination hammer/corkscrew/TV antenna from your mother-in-law. Get it out, use it, enjoy it, let it transform you. I bet you’ll find that it begins to transform the people around you as well.

What are you hoping for right now? I challenge you to hold onto that hope, and allow yourself to think about it this week, maybe even to talk about it. Offer it to God in your prayer time and allow it to creep into your dreams. Let’s just see what happens.

And while you’re hoping, here’s an earworm from the Dixie Chicks…

I hope, for more love, more joy and laughter
I hope, we'll have more than we'll ever need
I hope, we'll have more happy ever after
I hope, we can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery
I hope, I hope