As time passes it is easy for us to allow the natural virtue of hope to slide into fantasy. We then settle for false consolation rather than for the conviction, born of nothing but naked insight, that what seems to be the worst can evolve into the best. There is always risk in hope. And the courage to endure, embrace and in the end to simply be.
In hope – which is continually revving up during the weeks of Advent we risk being swept up in the conviction – the believing that is born of seeing – that our whole lives are held in God. It is hard to grasp this and it requires deep imagination even to articulate it to ourselves. Fantasy, wish-fulfillment is far easier but it is always a false hope.
The irony is that hope is born in the manger of despair when our false images and desires have exhausted themselves and we can believe in them no longer. To be without desire is a terrible transition into reality. That is why so few people ever discover what hope really means.
In the gospels the disciples of John the Baptist are the prototypes of evangelical hope. When Jesus appears and the Baptist points him out, they make the leap and follow the one who saves into the unknown about which the best thing they can say is that they know will be real.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken.
In a true community of faith we learn that however far we have been marginalised – however impoverished and amnesiac life may have left us – and however broken our dream-scattered hearts have become, hope is ever-present. Indeed inevitable. So, Advent is not waiting on tiptoe for Santa Claus to appear. It is gradually allowing ourselves to remember what unfathomable hope there emerges in God’s identifying with the human realm so fully that it embraces and reverse even the loss of hope.
Fr Ed Bakker