Dearest God, we thank you for the flame of your HOPE-FILLED Christ presence burning within our lives. Thank you that you understand when our circumstances seem dark and overwhelming. Thank you that dark hopelessness is never the last word. Thank you for the birth, life, death and resurrection-light of Your Son Jesus Christ and all of what that means for us. May we come increasingly to know and to live into that risen reality here where love is always winning, whether we can see it or not… now and always, Amen.
For we were saved in this HOPE, but HOPE that is seen is not HOPE; for why does one still HOPE for what he sees? (Romans 8: 25)
To have faith is to be sure of what we hope for and certain of that which we cannot see! (Hebrews 11)
Endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:4,5)
For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. (Galatians 5:5)
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12)
Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
‘Hope’ as we most commonly use the word describes the act of our wishing for something:
…you know, with the strength of our hoping dependent on the strength of our desiring: the deeper our desire, the more earnest our hopes & wishes. But that’s not what HOPE in the Bible is about at all. Biblical ‘hope’ (elpis) is not so much about what we may be wanting as about our expectation of what God has promised …and neither is its strength somehow dependent on our very limited resources but also on God, God’s eternal and infinite faithfulness.
‘Because we are so quickly led to despair – most of us cannot endure suffering for long without some sliver of hope or meaning – it is worth asking ourselves about where our hope lies’. (Rohr)
This ‘hope’ marked by the lighting of our First advent candle is about so much more than the Power of Positive Thinking/Wishing! Biblical HOPE – our Christmas HOPE – is about us being prepared/being willing to anticipate, to acknowledge and to embrace God’s promises. It’s about GOD’s faithfulness! According to Paul (1 Thess 5:8)‘hope’ is the helmet we wear in our armory against evil. It’s the anchor for our soul, penetrating deeply into the invisible and eternal world of God’s purposes (Hebrews 6:19).
Cynthia Bourgeault makes the same point with her powerful distinction between what she calls ordinary hope and mystical hope. I’m paraphrasing her now: Mystical hope lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions. It has something to do with presence as opposed to some future good outcome. It has to do with the immediate experience of being met by something/SOMEONE intimately at hand – to be held in communion.
It bears fruit within us: the sensations of strength, joy, and satisfaction: an “unbearable lightness of being.” But mysteriously, rather than deriving these gifts from any outward expectations being met, it seems to produce them from within. It’s part of our being made in God’s image that we have a responsibility to develop a conscious and permanent connection to this – HOPE as the very wellspring of our lives. Because it’s as we miss that, that we risk missing the call to become a vessel/ a chalice into which this divine energy of God can pour; a lamp through which it can shine. The journey to the wellsprings of hope is really a journey toward the center, toward the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.
And then we have this rather remarkable observation from Richard Rohr describing the relationship between just this God-given HOPE and the things that most hurt us, break our hearts: “Until we walk with despair, and still have hope, we will never know whether our hope was not just hope in ourselves, in our own successes, in our power to make a difference, in our image of what perfection should be. We need hope from a much deeper Source. We need a hope larger than ourselves.
It seems that until we walk with personal issues of despair, we will never uncover the Real Hope on the other side of that despair.
I don’t know what levels of loss you have known, or even of what you are most aware today…
…but we do know some sense of the mystical, sacred, Biblical hope that Christ’s presence lights up within each one of us. I know that because I know that we have all been given to have at least some sense of who – at Christmas – we celebrate in Christ as Emmanuel – this GOD who is WITH US! And so:
MAY CHRIST’S HOPE BE VERY REAL FOR YOU THIS YEAR…
With all our hearts may we come actually to believe that within each and every one of us already exists Christ’s Advent wreath of HOPE, JOY, LOVE AND PEACE – all already in place, just waiting to flare up/come alive with God’s Breath.
Today, whatever our circumstances – however lonely or difficult or heartsore, however uncertain the future – may we all – together – also be so very aware of the radiating warmth of Christ’s Mystical HOPE already glowing to confirm God’s perfectly comforting and empowering presence, God’s profoundly hopeful purpose deep within you…
May it be so, In Jesus’ Name, Amen
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