A reflection for the first week of Advent: Hope
‘Being hopeful is a choice.’
Where we live there is a regular meeting of the local ordained and lay ministers. It’s ecumenical: crossing the denominational lines from the free church charismatic to the Roman Catholic, the Anglican to the Baptist, the Methodist to the United Reformed. It’s not just meeting for meeting’s sake: we work together and worship together. Be it Carols at Five on this coming Saturday or the Annual Week for Christian Unity next month. And even the yearly Blessing of the Boats.
‘Being hopeful is a choice’ was an observation by one minister at last month’s meeting. It reminded me of how, over the years, I have become more and more aware that we all make choices. Some are more unconscious than conscious perhaps, and faced with particular circumstances some will reply quite understandably, ‘But I have no choice, Richard.’
That said, we probably have more choices than we realise. For example, I have a choice as to whether or not to feel irritated by the behaviour of another person (or Daisy the Vicarage Dog for that matter)… in other words, I could choose not to feel irritated.
We have a choice as to whether we turn a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour by others at work, home or church. We have a choice about whether or not we continue to have that dispute or argument with another person. (And how many such disagreements have continued for years simply because no one made the choice for it to be different.) We have a choice as to how we respond to illness or other life-changing occurrences.
Of course, and it’s true for all of us that it takes no effort whatsoever to be pessimistic, to be negative, to find fault. To be hope-less. Whereas it takes a lot of effort to be hope-full.
Being hopeful is a choice.
The Old Testament figure of Job is portrayed as someone who was hope-less: stricken by illness, misfortune and the misplaced comfort of other people. So, let’s see what resonates for us today…
‘When I lie down I say, “When shall I rise?”
But the night is long,
and I am full of tossing until dawn…
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
and come to their end without hope.’ (Job 4:4,6)
You get the picture – we’ve all been there. Maybe you are now.
But at least Job can say this…
‘For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down,
that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grows old in the earth,
and its stump dies in the ground,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth branches like a young plant.’ (14:7-9)
Being hopeful is a choice and in this time of Advent, we are to wait in hope.