In the continuing saga of my issues with Advent, we talk about yet another of those words connected with it: hope. Now, one of the best things about being a Baptist is that you aren’t bound to liturgical things like the lectionary text. This past Sunday at College Park Baptist Church, that freedom allowed our pastor, Michael Usey, to use the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth to talk about hope.
Zechariah and Elizabeth for years had desperately hoped for a child. Unfortunately, it never happened for them and, as old age sat in, they had pretty much given up on it ever happening. Then, one day, as Zack was carrying out his priestly duties, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. When he told the old boy his hope for a son would be fulfilled, Zack didn’t believe it. Can’t say as I blame him; if someone told me I was going to father a child, I doubt I would’ve been as nice as Zack was((especially in like of certain measures that were taken years ago)). And, what did Zack get for his easily understood reaction to such a pronouncement? Gabriel struck him dumb until his wife had the baby. Sometimes, God (or his representatives) can be a real asshole.
Hearing this story yesterday, I that hope is a funny thing; when our dearest dream actually comes true, it is often unbelievable. Zechariah had longed for a son and when he found out that longing would be fulfilled, he didn’t believe it. Likewise, the Israelites had hoped for Messiah for years and when they got one they didn’t accept him. Of course, the fact that the Messiah wasn’t what they expected didn’t help.
These days, hope seems hard to come by. Especially since we’ve been hoping for so long without much encouragement. Oh sure, there is plenty of encouragement in the Bible and Christian literature; but let’s be honest, the written word can wear a little thin after a while. I mean, seriously, we’re almost 15 years into the 21st century and equality is a distant dream, the majority of the world’s population lives in grinding poverty and most government respond to a perceived threat with violence and never consider any other. And people are still dying at the hands of those who sworn to protect them((I would mention something about flying cars. But, I’m pretty sure that’s not relevant to this discussion)). How are some words on a page supposed to give me hope in the face of all that?
So, how do we find hope in the midst of all this despair? Honestly, between the news of recent grand jury decisions and the abject racism some people have displayed, I’m finding hope to be a rare commodity these days. I keep asking myself “How do people hope in the face of such injustice? What makes them keep going?” The honest answer to these questions is “I don’t know”. After reading all this, you’re probably wondering if I have any hope at all((I know I am)). Yes, I do. If nothing else, I hope to find a way to keep hoping. God knows, I need it right now.