Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent: making hope real

This past Sunday at church we lit the advent candle of Hope. We read Isaiah 40 and the pastor talked about what hope is. Then we talked together around our tables about hope. One of our members who is a hospital chaplain brought several quotes about hope. The one we read was anonymous and sparked discussion. It said that "hope is a work of faith, while doubt is an easy way out." Hope is a work of faith. Hope is like a muscle strand of faith. It must be exercised, used, active to be realized.

I just finished reading Hector Tobar's gripping story of the Chilean mining disaster in 2010 where 33 miners spent 69 days underground. In the first weeks there was only a tenuous strand of hope but it was used, the men organized, prayed, shared food and water. A few doubted in their rescue and gave up, doing little.

In the days after Ferguson, there were protests and displays of doubt that things would ever get better. The Ferguson community burned and smoldered. But, some hoped: they prayed for peace and justice,  and one young man held up a sign that said, Free Hugs. A heavily armed police officer took him at his word and a picture of their hug was seen across the country. A sign of hope.

Isaiah 40 is a sign of hope, too. After a long barren time that felt like judgment, God was on his way bringing comfort. It would take work to get there; the people are told to get out and prepare the way: excavate the land, put up "fill needed" signs, build roads, believe God is coming and get ready.

Hope is a work of faith. Hope is rooted in our faith in the Gospel. It takes work to realize it. Prayer is work. Going to church in a part of the city with boarded up homes and burned out businesses and the homeless hanging out on the street corners, is work. Working on a habitat for humanity home in the neighborhood is work. Tutoring reading after school is work. Visiting the sick, holding the hands of the dying, advocating for the voiceless, doing the right things is work. Preaching the gospel sometimes with and sometimes without words is work. What work can we do today to exercise our faith and make hope real?