The first Sunday of Advent. The Sunday of Hope. In a darkened world, finding glimmers of hope can often prove elusive for many. We search for peace. For compassion. We ache to bring a taste of heaven down here to earth and satisfy our longing hearts.
Yet, headlines on the news remind us all too often just how far we are from our heavenly home. Challenges and adversities of all shapes and sizes chip away at once-faithful resilience. With tentative steps in the dark, we grasp for the hope of healing light.
And despite the encroaching darkness, our Hope never fails. For He is a Hope that is transcendent, eternal, and very, very real.
One of my personal heroes, Chieko N. Okazaki once remarked:
Hope is one of the three great Christian virtues because Christ Himself is the master of life and therefor the master of hope… Think what this means! Because of our Savior’s victory, we too can be victorious. In the face of this good news, this triumphant shout from the battlefield of ultimate victory, then we can see why our everyday sacrifices, our ordinary hope is so tough, so versatile, so difficult to turn into meaninglessness and despair.
In fact, it cannot happen– we literally cannot despair– unless we choose to. But because we are mortal, death is entangled with life. We can choose to feed the darkness and death in our lives, or we can choose to feed the brightness of hope in our lives. We can worry. We can deny the light. We can refuse to ally ourselves with Jesus Christ, the already triumphant master of life…
I testify that the forces of life are always stronger than the forces of death. If we choose, if we even desire to choose, if we even hope for the desire to choose, we set in motion powerful forces for life that are led by Jesus Christ Himself. He responds to those tender tendrils of crippled life with the force and energy that will bring them to flowering. Listen to these promises of love and yearning desire for us. Feel the hope they bring that with Him we can overcome the world.
While much of the world seems to spin in turmoil, we can stand steadfast and secure in the hope of a loving Savior. One who loves abundantly and succors His children perfectly. And with that hope, we can be the good we wish to see in the world. Though our difficulties may not dissipate, we can trust in our life’s Director. When life gets dark and unrelenting, we don’t have to give in to fear and doubt. Faith will always be stronger than fear. And love ultimately wins every time.
My heart beats the words of this prayer, which ofttimes has been attributed to St. Frances:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Sister Okazaki is right. Daily we make choices as to whether we shall live in despair or abound in hope. To serve or retreat. And as the apostle Paul counseled, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (see Galatians 6:9)
This is a phrase that I have repeated to myself often over the last several months. When life gets real and raw, we can remind ourselves to faint not. For our Hope is greater than the darkness. Our Hope is greater than the heartache. He is the greatest of all. And if we can learn to place our trust in Him, we can be instruments of His peace.
The music of Christian indie-folk duo Jenny & Tyler has been a fixture of my life’s soundtrack for a few years now. With all that is going on in the world right now, the lyrics to this song penetrate my soul. On this first Advent Sunday of Hope, I am reminded that if I place my focus on the things of light and love, that darkness cannot and shall not overcome.
O my soul, faint not!
O my soul, keep up in love!