Thursday, December 4, 2014

When hope seems small

We lit the candle for hope on our Advent wreath this week.  It seems a dark time for this little light as the news only provides increasing images of hopelessness.  It's cold and rainy outside and the inside is a mess as well.  We are struggling to make sense of the senseless: in this day and age, in a country that prizes democracy and freedom, how can we still have so much inequality and injustice?  I don't understand, and I fear adding my words to the mix of hatred and racism and misunderstanding that further divides us.

My life and work is grounded on the faith that we were all created equally by a loving God, and that we are made to live in community with one another.  But our holy scriptures and our lived experiences show us how difficult that journey really is.  In the Garden there was the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The first people chose poorly then, and we continue to do so time and time again.  Knowing good and evil, we choose evil.  We hide our fears in actions that instead bring hurt and pain to ourselves and others.  We have been exiled from the Garden and we separate ourselves from God and one another through our words and through our beliefs that our differences are insurmountable.  We have been told to "choose life, that you might live" but we have forgotten the One that is Life.  We have forgotten the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Jesus called himself the "Bread of Life" that is given so that we will never have to hunger again.  But we are hungry, and instead of bread we feast on gossip and slander and prejudice.  We gorge ourselves on being right and privilege and not listening to one another's perspective.  We try to satisfy ourselves with our own self-righteousness.  God knows I am guilty.  And hungry.  And empty.  Where is the hope in this?

But hope is a more powerful thing than we realize, and I need that reminder every Advent.  Things certainly looked hopeless in Jesus' time as well.  There was racism and classism and religious division.  There was oppression and slavery and imperial terror.  Into that unlikely time, a savior was born in the humblest of circumstances.  His birth was announced to the weakest members of society, the ones most in need of the good news.  And today we wait for the good news again.  It's not a passive sort of waiting, but a journey that takes us out of our comfort zone, into cold rain, seeking a light that the darkness cannot overcome.

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