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Hope and Lament

I need Advent this year, more than ever.

It’s the season of longing, and I know longing.

I turn to the prophet Isaiah, who watched darkness take hold of the people of God and watched them turn from the Lord and the care of his people. He watched them exploit the poor, the foreigner, and the land God had provided. He watched their political downfall as they forsook YHWH’s kingship and were subsequently conquered by brutal foreign armies, tortured and led from home as slaves.

And into this chaos, he cried, “hope!”

I’ve been desperate for Advent, trying to embrace contemplation and intention during this season. The plan was to share reflections on the theme of each week, but here it is, the last day of “hope” week, and I’m just now trying to make words happen on paper.

The truth is, I didn’t want to write about hope. I didn’t want to write it, because I’m not feeling so much of it right now. Desperation: yes. Longing: yes. Righteous anger: I’ve got a boatload. Hope, however, has felt somewhat elusive.

As I look around at the world right now, anger and grief choke me. My heart is on feelings overload, as each day the news brings word of events that my brain cannot even process.

There are STILL babies dying in Syria as bombs are dropped on hospitals. There are thousands of refugees stuck in camps in squalid conditions, dying from exposure and lack of medical attention. Hate crimes against Muslims skyrocketed after the election, many happening in my own city. How many school shootings occurred this year? Military police are using water cannons and rubber bullets to silence peaceful Native American protestors because they won’t let us poison their sacred land for profit. I’ve lost count of how many people of color have been murdered in police related incidents this year, and how many of those police officers walked away without consequence. The church that taught me to act justly and love mercy, to prefer others, and to care for the oppressed was the driving force behind putting an acknowledged sexual predator and racist in the White House.

Are you kidding me?

I’m literally shaking typing these words.

This Advent, my soul screams to the heavens, “Jesus, come quickly.”

And in my rage, I realize that in that prayer is the very essence of this season of Hope.

Hope isn’t a shiny, sparkly word wrapped in twinkle lights that hands you a Starbucks peppermint mocha. It doesn’t cover over pain or make vague platitudes like, “It’ll all be alright,” or dismiss injustice with “God is still in control.”

Hope is active and raw. It sounds like lament and marching in the streets. Hope starts fires and fans flames of change.

Hope exists when we announce that “THIS IS NOT THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE!” Hope screams, “THERE IS A BETTER WAY!”

Hope tells of a Kingdom that is here and that is coming in which every mountain will be made low and every valley raised and everyone shall see the Lord on an even, equal, plain (Isaiah 40:4-5). Hope speaks of swords beaten into plowshares, where no one will even learn how to wage war anymore (Isaiah 2:1-11). Hope speaks of the Mountain of God where all nations and creation will be at peace with one another and with God, where lions will lay down with lambs (Isaiah 11:6).

Hope sings over us that we have deliverance because God became weak and made his home in brokenness as a baby, and that this same God will return victorious to make all things new. (Rev. 21:5)

In the midst of darkness, hope is our anchor and compass, holding us steady and pointing us towards the glorious Kingdom of our God.

But it is not only for us. This hope has marching orders. A flame that is not shared will eventually die.

Church, can you imagine what would happen if we started to share about the Kingdom described by Isaiah? If we painted the image of radical peace, hospitality, and righteousness of the Mountain of the Lord? In a world torn by violence and hate, people would be clamoring and climbing over chairs to get to our Jesus.

So, I’m going to keep yelling. Keep weeping. Keep speaking the truth that our world is not what it should be.

Join me.

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