Two days ago we learned that my brother-in-law in California passed away. It has already been a difficult holiday season but receiving that news created a vacuum in our hearts. He spent the holidays with us last year here in Tennessee and this past spring we spent a few meaningful days with him in Simi Valley California.
And so once again this aching grief knocks on our door. Grief has been too frequent a guest these last two years and it compounds with each loss. We now feel a bit like a sailboat that sits motionless in the ocean. We lift our heads toward the sky facing the sun and wait for a force that is greater than us to carry us to our next destination.
It starts as the slightest breeze -- just enough to warrant the raising of our sail. The tiny ripples of water near the hull of our boat reminds us there are still destinations on our horizon. This invisible force will carry us forward.
Hope is not a conjured up emotion or mere optimism. It is a divine gift as mysterious as the wind that blows where it will. Hope is the cleft in the rock that protects us from the raging storm. Hope is the door in the desert just beyond the fleeting mirage. Hope. One of the three eternal mysteries, all other gifts will pass but Faith, Hope and Love.
Hope is my anchor and as the prophet Zechariah writes in the Messianic prophecy about Zion. “Return to your fortress you prisoners of Hope” – Hope is my fortress.
Don’t look at the baby Jesus born in a manger through the lenses of a society that has dramatized and commercialized the message. Look at the story through the lenses of an occupied nation where a young couple from rural Galilee return to Bethlehem because of the decree of a Roman Ruler.
Then in the most unlikely of place a cave where animals lived - a young girl went into labor. I assure you everything about that moment and place was void of hope and then the tiniest babe, so dependent upon frail humanity, took his first breath. At that moment the heavens erupted into praise. Peace on earth and Good will towards men. This was to be a game changer.
May the God of hope fill your hearts. It is this mystery that shall fill the bellows of our hearts this season and carry us to the next horizon. Because in the end these three remain, Faith, hope and Love.