Wednesday Word: Hope
“I cannot be an optimist, but I am a prisoner of hope.” – Dr. Cornel West, Harvard University
In an article from TrinityNews (Trinity Church, Wall Street) back in 2014, Dr. West explained how he saw the difference between optimism and hopefulness by saying that hope allows us to see the darkness in the world while generating actions, work, and witness to bring an end to that darkness. Optimism, on the other hand (and in his opinion), is a naive belief that everyone will see a happy ending.
If you have been watching our worship services online you may have noticed that every Sunday the Advent wreath has a different banner facing the camera. Those four banners are Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. They coincide (roughly) with the themes of that particular Sunday of Advent. For instance, this past Sunday was Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of the pink/rose candle, and the Sunday where the traditional introit of the service has been, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” So the Joy banner is hung.
The theme of the First Sunday of Advent is Hope. In the gospel reading for that Sunday Jesus talks about the end of days. The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and stars will fall from heaven. Nations will be in distress and people will faint from fear of what is coming. We are to keep awake and be alert, for the Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour. We are given a glimpse of the coming darkness, but that admonition to remain awake and alert also gives us hope.
Our faith isn't based in optimism; it doesn't promise that everyone will see a happy ending. Instead, our faith is based in hope. Our faith tells us straight up, “There will be dark days ahead.” But our faith also gives us the hope of bringing light to a darkened world. Our faith gives us the hope to cast away the works of darkness. Our faith gives us the hope to, as Dr. West said, generate actions, work, and witness to bring an end to the darkness.
In Advent we are both preparing and waiting for the coming Messiah. That preparation comes from Jesus' warning to keep awake and alert. The waiting comes from the fact that no one knows the day nor the hour. So we wait. And we prepare. And in that waiting and preparation there is hope.
In these dark days of COVID, separation, and gathering restrictions, how are you shining the light of Christ and Church? How are you preparing to bring an end to the darkness? How do your current actions testify to both the need to wait and the need to prepare?
In this season of Advent, I hope you are not passively waiting for better days, but working to shine a light in the darkness.