In this season of Advent, I have found myself reaching for hope, yearning to just stretch out a bit further, as if I can feel its warmth just out of reach. I came across a quote a few weeks ago, naming anger and courage as the daughters of hope, but I feel like it works slightly differently, more like anger stirs up the first embers of hope. Anger highlights where something is wrong, where things need to change. But hope remains ephemeral until we start to move into courage. But then once it becomes real action, not just ephemeral, where is the space for hope? We cannot hope for what already is, only that which could be. As soon as we begin to move into it, it is no longer just a possibility.
So is hope anything more than a soul’s longing to see anger serving its purpose? Perhaps hope is the force pushing us from anger into courage, expanding our narrow vision into great expanse.
The wind pushes me out the door into the alley, from polished concrete out onto rough patched tar seal littered with cigarette butts and shards of glass. I tread carefully in my bare feet. Nameless cars are edged into corners around each other, trying not to block others, but still trying to claim space for themselves in this messy, dirty and broken space.
Is that what I am doing? Trying to claim space in this narrow alley we have decided to call life? Putting up my defenses and barricading others on the outside? “This is my piece and you shall not have it!”
But this is not God’s way, this is not making room for others, offering the good. And why would I want to claim any of this dirty, broken, unwanted space anyway?
A podcast I was listening to last week put it this way: first we decide what is possible, then we base our ideas of what is real on that. It’s how we distinguish between voices in our own head being a sign of madness or not. If we look around and there is no one near us, then the voices we hear cannot be possible, and therefore they cannot be ‘real’. But God asks us to do it the other way around: to decide to believe what God says is real first, and then base possibilities on that.
God invites us to expand our vision beyond the narrow walls of the alley we think is life, to look up and out to the expanse of sky, to the open fields, to the wind coming in from the sea and flowing through the trees nearby.
In Hebrew there is only one word which means both to hope and wait. It is more than a passive waiting, more than unrealistic dreams of fluff. It is hard expectancy, certainty and conviction that this will come.
They set up the great big Christmas tree in town about a week ago, and I’m still not quite sure if I can believe it is real, that Christmas is only a few weeks away, that Christ is coming. But isn’t that the essence of our Christian faith? That Christ has already come and is even now living in each of us by the spirit? This is not an unfulfilled hope, a dreamed longing. It is a hard certainty. We can stand in this season of Advent and know that Christ is coming, because He is already here.