Hope and Preparation
Sunday, November 29th was the first Sunday of Advent. This year, we are exploring advent with the theme “Travelling Together To Bethlehem.” During our Time With the Children, we explored some of the things we might be packing for our journey, from concrete things such as a water bottle, hat, and granola bar, to abstract things such as hope, peace, joy, and love. Before sharing with you a little of the week’s sermon, I will leave you with our poem for the Sunday, Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a thing with feathers.”
What does hope look like, when we live in a world with so much destruction and despair? This is a story we hear again and again – a familiar tale of hardship and loss that we hear in some way in all of today’s scripture readings.
In my own thinking about hope, I make a distinction between two kinds of hope. The first, I call “Hope For.” This is what we most commonly think of and use in our speech. It is attached to a specific outcome. It is possible to evaluate, at some point, whether or not that hope has been fulfilled. I hope it doesn’t rain – or snow – today. I hope you slept well. I hope the Jays win the World Series next year, since they didn’t quite make it this year… With this kind of hope, hopes can be unfulfilled, not just in the present but never. This kind of hope lends itself to disappointment as specific outcomes are not achieved.
The second kind of hope I call “Hope In.” Rather than being connected to specific outcomes is about being grounded in something. It is not only future directed, but emerges from the present. It both gives us an active role (we are called to take part) and reminds us that it is not all up to us, or all about us. I think Jeremiah in today’s reading (33:14-16), describes this kind of hope: “They will call the land ‘YHWH is our justice.'” Hope in justice. Hope in love. Hope in what is already true: that the birth of a fragile baby changes the world…