People of Hope

By Lynne Elwinger, O.C.D.

The experience we call Christmas is an experience inextricably bound up with hope. Invited to be people of hope, we are also shown Godís own hope in us and in the future of our world. A newborn babe is recognized as the fulfillment of the prophecies of generations of the people who have been waiting for a savior, a messiah, to come among them. In a world dark with oppression and injustice and sadness, hope is born. Weaving together the hopes of Mary, who believed Godís words to her about the child to come, the hopes of Joseph who believed Godís assurances about Mary and the child, and the hopes of their people, this mystery child is born, destined to be recognized as God-with-us. New possibilities open. Godís hoping and human hoping have become one.

This Moment

Some shepherds, seeing and feeling this hope, rejoice, and heaven echoes their rejoicing. This moment has changed the future of the earth. Seers from a far-off land journey a long way to honor the babe and the inner meaning of this moment in history. The reigning king, with no good intentions, tries to find out where the babe is, but is prevented from getting this information. In the end, the holy family flees to a foreign country to avoid being murdered. Yet hope, represented by the infant Jesus, persists, grows and returns safely home in due time.

Today our world and we, as individuals, are suffering, frightened and perplexed, confronting events that seem totally beyond our control. Especially in times like these, we need to remember that hope has to be worked at when it doesnít automatically arise. Although it is true that hope is a gift of grace embroidered into the very fabric of our souls, created as they are in the image and likeness of God, there can be a significant difference between knowing that and living it. In each of us there is, however, an elusive presence prompting us to hope even when and where hope does not seem reasonable. When we ďloseĒ hope, we lose contact with that part of our inner selves where not only hope itself, but also the capacity for hoping, is found. This does not mean that we are no longer able to hope, but that we are experiencing a temporary disconnection with this part of ourselves, having become too focused in the direction of outer misfortune.

A Shared Journey

Now, more than ever, it is important to know what gives us hope and what we hope for, both for ourselves and for our world. Our work is to stay focused on the hope energy and to contribute to that energy rather than to the energy of confusion and despair. When hope doesnít spontaneously happen or seems absent, it needs to be coaxed out of hiding. In the birth of Jesus, we have been given an invitation to embrace hope, to trust it, and to live aware of its energy for good. Christmas not only invites us to recall that we have reason to hope, but also announces Godís hope in and for our world. Our hopes and Godís hope merge in a birth in a stable. A shared journey begins there and continues to unfold within human history. Across the centuries, we are called to bring hope to birth in our own time. We are invited to see with shepherdís eyes, to find Godís hope in ourselves, in each other and in our world. We ask for shepherdís hearts that can feel the presence of hope in the most unexpected places and rejoice.

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