They say hope is a beautiful thing, but this year, I find it absolutely terrifying. During this time of year, Christians lift up the importance of hope in a bleak, winter world. The first week of Advent is when we are reminded to have hope because we know the light is coming. We have hope in the midst of this long and dark season of waiting because Christ is coming and our hope will be fulfilled.
But hope is also a terrifying thing. It's terrifying to have hope in the midst of utter darkness. Hope for the coming Christ child is one thing but it's another entirely to have hope when you do not know the outcome. It's a terrifying thing to know that the outcome may be seeing your hopes crushed. Sometimes having hope leads to heartbreak and I have been notoriously good at avoiding heartbreak. Hope terrifies and frustrates me. There are relationships, people, and situations that I wish I could give up hope on because that sounds so much easier. It would be easier on my bruised and aching heart not to keep hoping. But no matter how much my brain says stop, my heart goes right on hoping anyway. Hoping that maybe, just maybe, there might be a light and the end of this long night.
The truth is, hope is a dangerous thing. There is a reason practically every dystopian novel involves dictators desperately holding on to power by squashing hope. Hope is powerful. When I think of the last year, I think first think of despair and anger. It's been a sad year for women, for the planet, and for the marginalized. But I think my sadness is so painful because I haven't lost hope. Apathy is much easier than hope in the face of tragedy. Don't be mistaken- it's not just anger that brings people into the streets in protest, it's hope. Without hope, we would stay home. Without hope of something more for this world, for our loved ones, for our lives, we couldn't even feel anger. The hope of the people is dangerous to the powerful. As Mary will say,
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
Hope is on its way and that should make the powerful very, very afraid.
So on this first week of Advent, I'm holding on to hope, no matter how much it scares me. I'm clinging to hope with a fierce resolve. When I get angry at the world, I'm trying to remind myself that it's just because I still have hope that the world can and will be better someday and I will be a part of making it so. Even in relationships that by all means seem beyond hope, Advent reminds me that hope springs up in the most unlikely of places.
"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence...
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
Yet, O Lord, you are our Parent;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people."
Isaiah 64:1-2,8-9. Revised Common Lectionary, Year B