(Advent 2A) 4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; 10and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; 11and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; 12and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.” 13May 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: 4-13)
So why do we have these Scriptures? There are those that will tell you that you need to memorize as many as you can, amassing sort of a mental collection of passages to pull up as we need them. Well, good luck with that! I can’t even remember my grocery list unless it’s written down. There are some that depict that Bible as having all the answers. Oh come now! Have you read the accounts of the canonical Gospel writers? (Not to mention the non-canonical ones—yeah, there ARE more of those writers!) They can’t even agree on the order in which things happened much less why. And then there are those that assume that the Bible is the moral code, the list of things you should do and should not do. How boring would THAT be? (Yeah, behavior lists also make for profound and exciting reading!) But, here, the writer Paul says that the Scriptures were written that we might have hope.
For Paul, this hope comes through an awareness and acknowledgment of our shared story. Hope, then, is realized in community. None of us have a lock on the truth by ourselves. Truth comes as we journey through life with others experiencing and balancing our story together. Think of those that came before us 2,000 years ago. For generations upon generations they had hoped for a Messiah, hoped for the One who would lead them home. And their hope was part of their community, it was who they were. That hope provided the very foundations on which they built their faith. As each generation learned the stories and practices of their faith tradition, they also learned hope.
So hope is more than just a wish for the future. It is more than an awkward dream that things will work out, that things will turn out all right. Hope is found in the very depths of who we are. Hope springs from the well-worn words of the pages of Scripture that we read and carries us into the future. It is hope that takes us beyond where we are, that belies our fears and our need for the comforts and security of what we know. It is hope that reminds us that we are called to be more. It is hope that gives us life. That is the promise. The sign above Dante’s hell reads “Abandon hope all you who enter here.” Regardless of what your image of hell may be (Dante notwithstanding), as long as we have hope, we have life.
Advent is the season that teaches us to hope, that teaches us to let go of certainty and let go of that need to know exactly where we are going. Advent reminds us that even in the wilderness, even on those days when we do not think we can possibly go on, even when we forget who we are and feel a little alone, even when we momentarily lose our way or when we think the world has somehow slipped from our grasp and gone into a place that we do not want to follow, there is hope. To have hope means that we dare to get out of our own way. To hope is to open ourselves to God, to open ourselves to the God who leads us home. 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.
Hope is what sits by a window and waits for one more dawn, despite the fact that there is not one ounce of proof in tonight’s black, black sky that it can possibly come. (Joan Chittister)
FOR TODAY: In what way is God calling you to open yourselves to hope? What’s in the way?
And a short programming note…Apparently some (or all–I don’t know) of the emails for the 11/30 (Wednesday) blog post did not go for some reason unknown to me and unknown to WordPress. If you did not get it, it IS there on the website. Sorry about the confusion! S.