January 2009

Hope

I am feeling more hopeful this January than I have in a long, long time. I became aware of it in mid December as I was preparing my message for the Christmas Eve service. At the time, I was more “in the bleak midwinter” rather than the “holly, jolly Christmas”. The news was all bad: killing in the Middle East, disaster in the economy, and a snowstorm predicted for Christmas.

The scripture reading for Christmas Eve was of course the account of Christ’s nativity, from the Gospel according to Luke. In the text, we read of the angelic chorus singing about peace and good will on earth. My instinctive response was “bah, humbug”, just like old Scrooge. There’s precious little peace or good will on earth! There wasn’t when Jesus was born; there isn’t today some 2000 years later. What were those angels thinking?!

Eventually, as I reflected on the story, what took hold in my heart was a message of hope. No, there isn’t much peace or good will in the world. But we have hope for peace. We have hope for good will. We have hope for a world in which justice and compassion overcome prejudice, greed, and indifference. Hope makes it possible for us to persist in prayer for these things. Hope makes it possible for us to persevere in our efforts to work for these things. Hope makes for peace and good will.

As I found myself thinking about hope, I realized that hope had been growing in me for a couple of months. It began in November when we chose Barack Obama for our next president. My hope has grown as I have watched him work to pick the best people to join his administration. It has been encouraged by indications that leaders of the governments of many other countries have celebrated his election.

I have hope that we as a country will work harder at peacemaking with the tools of diplomacy and international cooperation, rather than with the weapons of warfare and unilateral militarism. I have hope that we will worker harder at developing regulations and policies that promote a sustainable economy. I have hope that we will work harder at developing alternative sources of energy that are less harmful to the environment. I have hope that we will work harder at ensuring everyone has access to food, housing, healthcare, and education. I have hope that we will make further progress toward equality for our diverse races, genders, cultures, and sexual orientations. I am feeling more hopeful than I have felt in years.

So I think this may be my New Year’s resolution for 2009: to practice hopeful living. I resolve to nurture hope in myself and in my world. It is so easy for me to focus on the problems, to see the negative, to be negative. I will still need to be honest about these issues, but I want to bring hope to bear on them. I want to believe that God has come into my world and into my life to empower us, to empower me, to live with hope, to work with hope, to pray with hope, to love with hope… and to bring hope to others.

Here’s a prayer for you and me from the apostle Paul: “May the God of Hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.” (Romans 15:13, The New Testament in Modern English, by J.B. Phillips).

What are your New Year’s resolutions? What are your New Year’s hopes?

May 2009 be “radiant with hope”!