These are the days to restore hopeBottom Highlights, Online Only, Where's the Faith? Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!
Christianity celebrates Advent as a time or expectation and preparation for the arrival of the Christ child. It has been celebrated since the 400s CE and includes the four Sundays before Christmas Eve.
The first Sunday of Advent focuses on hope.
What is hope? Is hope a kind of wishy-washy optimism? The modern idea of hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without certainty or fulfillment.” We’ve all said things like, “I hope you have a good day,” or “I hope I win the lottery!” Today, I “hope” you will begin to see that real hope is so much more than wishful thinking.
Basically, hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. What is the opposite of hope? The opposite of hope is despair.
Hope is commonly used as a literary concept as a motivating force for change. In the poem by Emily Dickenson we read, “Hope is the thing with feathers which sits on the soul …”
In the field of psychology, we are told that with a sense of hope come positive emotions such as happiness and joy, courage and empowerment. Barbara Frederickson at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill states that when things are not going well or there is uncertainty about how things will turn out “Hope literally opens us up … and removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture…thus allowing us to become creative.”
Hope is not a static or passive thing. It is dynamic, active, directive and life sustaining. Hope is not an escape from reality or from problems. Hope doesn’t leave us idle. Hope that is real will put us into action.
Hope is a key concept in most major world religions, including Christianity. Romans 15:4 says, “And indeed, everything that was written long ago in scripture was meant to teach us something about hope, from the examples scripture gives us of how people who did not give up were helped by God.”
According to the Hebrew and Greek words translated into English as “hope” the word is an indication of certainty and a positive expectation. Hope is a trustful expectation, the anticipation of a favorable outcome. Hope is synonymous with trust and a confident expectation. Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for, the certainty of what we do not see.”
Why do we need hope? Hope frees us from yesterday. You cannot change the past, and I’m not trying to trivialize some of the horrific things that have happened in people’s lives – the loss, the abuse, the pain. But we do have a choice. You can choose to stay in the past, reliving the disappointments and suffering. Or you can choose to move on. You can choose what to think about the various events that have played out in your lives. You can choose how to respond to the challenges, heartaches, and the opportunities that come into your life. Hope is a choice.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Hope has results. It changes how we see ourselves.
Another reason we need to restore hope is that hope fills us to live today. Hope gives us the power to live out our lives – to live courageously to be all that God has called us to be. In Romans 15:13 we find, “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace … and faith. That by the power of the Holy Spirit your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”
Hope is our anchor in life. With hope we are able to face the challenges of life with boldness and confidence. The prophets of the Hebrew bible knew this as we see in Jeremiah 17:7-8, “But blessed is the person whose trust (hope) is the Lord, whose confidence is in God. This persons will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
And finally, we need to restore hope because hope forms our tomorrows. Whatever it is that you hope for personally – for good health, for happiness, for a better world where mercy and justice overflow, hope for equality for all people … we have learned that our thoughts help to create our future. When we have hopeful thoughts – hope will form our tomorrows. Robert H. Goddard writes, “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday, is the hope of today, and the reality of tomorrow.”
This hope comes from understanding who we are as children of God – that we all have sacred value and are created in the image of God. Not only is God for us, but God is in us, expressing as and through us.
God desires that we have hope; Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares God, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Do you have hope today? Whatever your circumstance may be – hope is possible. Allow the Spirit of Hope to fill you this morning and enable you to carry that message of hope to others. No matter what the past may have been – with Hope we can be set free as we believe the Creator of the Universe, the very Spirit which breathes life into each of us every day, is there to free us from yesterday, bringing healing, encouraging us to move forward to face today and all the tomorrows we may be blessed to have.
Strength for today … and bright hope for tomorrow!
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