I was in a theater production a couple years ago. I played Sawyer from A Miracle on 34th Street. Sawyer is the horrible, doubtful, HR guy from Macy’s looking to commit Kris Kringle. He’s kind of a slimy guy. I imagine, if he has a Christmas tree at all, there aren’t gifts under it and that he’s just “riding out” the Christmas season. I imagine he can’t wait for things to go back to normal. I imagine there is very little imagination left in him, and imagination is so intricately connected to hope. To be able to envision a better tomorrow despite the current situation requires imagination.
Imagine for a moment, the hopelessness you might feel if you were one of the following:
A person going through severe heroin withdrawal.
A person with a disability on a waitlist for adequate housing.
A single parent that works two jobs and is drowning in debt.
A person stuck in an abusive relationship that can’t afford to leave and support their kids.
A transgender teenager kicked out of their home by the people they love the most.
A person who has been unemployed for over a year now and has no job prospects.
A person with a terminally sick child.
A young black male that is afraid to walk to school because of local gang violence and national hateful racist rhetoric.
A young veteran who cannot sleep because of the incessant nightmares when he closes his eyes.
A young, unwed and pregnant refugee couple trying to find a safe place to deliver their child.
Yet, every day, many apparently hopeless people find a reason to get out of bed and try again. That kind of resilience must be remnants of hope embedded in our DNA. This kind of imaginative hope is audacious. It is tenacious. It compels us to say, “Not today, but maybe tomorrow.”
This. This is the hope of Advent. This is the hope that says one day it will all be put right. When I hear these stories of hope, they become bellows that fan the flame of hope in my own soul, because:
That heroin addict is now three years sober.
That person in a wheelchair finally got the call saying they have a new place to live.
That single parent was given an envelope of money from an anonymous person/group.
That abused individual finally found the courage to leave and go to the abuse shelter, where they got help.
That transgendered youth found a church that affirms LGBTQ youth and they now have supportive relationships.
That unemployed person started their own lawn care business.
That family with a terminal child found a faith that gave them meaning in their suffering.
That young black male continues to stay in school and fight against everything inside and outside of him that says quit and join the gang.
That veteran with PTSD meets a neighbor, who is also a veteran and takes him to the VA for the first time, for a support group.
That refugee couple gives birth to a child that will one day give us all hope.
Hope does not promise us a happy ending here and now. It does promise to sustain us in times of trouble, as we imagine a life beyond our present suffering. Advent is the season of longing and hope. Advent is for those of us waiting. Waiting for our long-suffering hope to finally pay off. It is the waiting for the God-child to appear in the flesh and enter into our suffering with us. It is the waiting for this child to restore all things to the way they were intended to be, before our tears began to fall.
Don’t stop hoping now. You’ve come so far. Just a little further. It’s almost here. Don’t give up. You are almost there. Rescue is right around the corner. Tomorrow is coming, and nothing can stop it.
You are enough for this task because hope is in your bones!
I dare you to imagine a world in which hope triumphs over fear, where love overcomes hate.
May you live within the imaginative hope of love in these coming days. May that love call forth the songs you sing. May love give birth to new celebrations amid suffering. May love be within you, and may love surround you. May you know - deeply know - the fullness of God’s love for you. Amen.
Chris is married to Trudy and they have 4 bio kids, and several non-bio kids who’ve called them mom and dad over the years. Chris is a counselor and founder of conversationsonthefringe.com, a nonprofit that aims to help churches better love the marginalized and vulnerable.