“And this hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Romans 5:5
Are you hopeful? Honestly, I fear hope is on the decline. All of our little handheld computers, and otherwise, are too often little more than the amygdala’s megaphone shouting all of our fears, angers, and frustrations to an itchy-eared audience. We broadcast our caustic emotions and create and ongoing expectation of imminent apocalypse. Hope is lost, or at least severely muted.
Hope, however, is the theme of the first week of Advent, and hope is most needed where it appears most absent. In fact, hope loves to show up where it is least expected.
The Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a great example. Longfellow opens with his typical optimism. The Christmas-day bells remind the world of “peace on earth, good will to men.” The second stanza is even better, for he hears that sweet refrain in his heart. So far so good.
But the tone changes dramatically in the third stanza. Longfellow turned from the hope of heaven to the misery of the moment, and those moments were genuinely miserable. Written in 1864, Civil War ravaged the country, and the future of the UnitedStates was sorely in doubt. No wonder Longfellow wrote “And in despair, I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong, and mocks the song, of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Now there’s The Realist! Hatred was strong. Any wooly-headed optimist who suggested something higher and better may well have been mocked and ridiculed. Such is the sad, predictable refrain of The Realist.
Frankly, it takes no particular intellect or creativity to sound doom. The world alwayshas enough bad in it for despair to set in. There’s plenty of hatred today. And anger. And resentment. All seven deadly sins are alive and well. If you want a reason for despair, then click on the front page of your favorite news outlet.
Thank God for the fourth stanza! Longfellow turned back to the heavens and penned, “Then peeled the bells more loud and sweet, God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”
Hope, real hope, is always grounded in God’s character and providence. That’s the ultimate Reality. Connect hope to worldly metrics, like health, wealth, relationships, performance etc. and you will be disappointed, for life is hard. Focus on God and hope becomes the candle of your soul.
Trust God to make all things right in His time, and you’ll find hope. As for the despairing world around you? In the words of St. Francis, where there is despair, we bring hope.
Grace and peace,
Dr. Terry Ellis
December 3, 2018