Monday, November 28, 2011

It began with a baby, it began with hope

As I said yesterday, this is a week to celebrate hope. To be filled with hope and expectation of the season ahead of us. To, as a Christian, be filled with the expectation and preparing my heart, mind and soul for the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. But more than that, as a Christian, I am filled with the hope of the second coming of Christ….because that is really what Advent means… a fact I just learned a few weeks ago.
‘What, you mean after all these years it’s not just a birthday party for Jesus? It’s not just a celebration of the day the Lord gave Him to all of us to save us from ourselves’? Well as I am learning…apparently not just that!
As I said yesterday, the theological Christian virtue of hope is defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help.
That is what hope means to me. In this my own personal world, filled with financial stress, martial stress, parental and familial stress, grieving and memories….that is what gets me through… HOPE! The search for future good with God’s help, the knowledge that there is good there in my future, that there is a way out of this, there is an end, there is hope…but only with God’s help. I can’t do it alone. I know that it won’t be easy, I’ve lived through difficulties before and I’ll live through them again…and I’ll get through them all with the hope I have for my future.
In the greater world though there is not always such optimism. People can’t seem to find this hope, people can’t seem to understand how there can be hope when there is so much suffering and pain in the world. But those are the times we need to most hope. And It is not just hope for a better day or hope for the lessening of pain and suffering, although that is certainly a significant part of it.
I’ve been reading about this theme and was inspired by someone who suggested that It is more about hope that human existence has meaning and possibility beyond what is going on right now for us in our personal world or in the world at large. It’s a hope the our lives are not limited, not as narrow and minimal as we experience them to be. Many people have been raised to believe that we all have possibility, that we need to strive to do things bigger and better, that nothing is unattainable but this is a hard thing for many people to live by. It is so hard not to have doubts, not to be unsure. But this hope, this Christian Hope is more than that. It is that God is a God of new things, better things, wonderful things and so all things really are possible. (Isaiah 42:9, Matthew 19:26, Mark 14:36)
In the first century God’s people wanted Him to come and bring change, to release their oppression, to set them free. They were angry when those circumstances did not change immediately. We all fall into that trap. When things don’t change, when burdens seem more than we can bear and no end seems to be in site. We doubt, we question and we get angry too. But that is a short sighted view of the nature of hope. Our hope cannot be in these types of changes, these conditions and situations. No matter how badly we want them, how hard we think things are and how important these changes are to us. The reality of our existence is God’s people experience the physical existence in the same way everyone does. Christians get sick and die. Christians are victims of crime and war. Christians get hurt and killed in traffic accidents. Christians live in oppression, in poverty and in famine.
If the only hope we have is in our lives being ‘good’ or as we want them to be so that we can be content we will always be frustrated, if things are only ever as our dream self wishes we will be sadly disillusioned. That is why we hope, not in statuses, situations and conditions but rather in God. He has shown us over four thousand years that He is a God of change, of possibility , of restoration and of a transformation the goes beyond what we can possibly imagine. The greatest example of this is the Easter story…for Christ to die on the cross, for our sins and then to rise from the dead.
And that story begins with a baby in a manger. It began with the hope that God would come and continues with the hope that He will come again to reveal Himself to us as a God of possibility, of newness, of potential and of change. And so this time of year we think of that hope in the form of a newborn baby born in the most amazing circumstances and with such expectation and hope. What a perfect example of possibility, newness and potential a baby is! We wait with hopeful expectation that God will once again hear our cries, see the circumstances of the world and know our longing for a new world and better life. We hope that as He came as an infant, so He will come again.
My experience tells me that those who have suffered and still hope understand far more about God and about life than those who have not. Maybe that is what hope is about: a way to live, not just to endure or cope, but to live genuinely within all the burdens of life with a Faith that continues to see possibility when there is no sign of it in the world we live in, just because God is God.
This is the week of Hope. So many who have suffered and yet still have hope seem to understand God and life more others. And maybe that is what hope is about… a way to live, not just to endure, but to live genuinely within all the burdens of life with a Faith that continues to see possibility when there is no sign of it in the world, just because God is God.

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