Do you ever feel that the 24-hour cycle of breaking news literally might break you?
That it might break your heart?
I have to confess that in light of the heavy news in the world, I'm struggling with hope this year.
The latest quiz online asks, "Which Christmas character are you?"
And I'm afraid to take it because I know with certainty that I am not Elf this year.
Scrooge is toying with me.
Hopelessness is under my tree.
When you're hopeless, it's hard to imagine something new.
Hopelessness imprisons imagination.
When you're drowning in debt, you can't conceive a way out.
When codependency glues you to an abusive marriage, you can't see independence.
When you are unemployed for over a year, you doubt that a better resume will make a difference.
When your alcoholic parent makes promise upon promise that she won't ever drink again, you and hopelessness roll your eyes in unison.
When terror begins to own your country or state or city or neighborhood, you cannot envision safety anymore.
Hopelessness dreams a dead-end nightmare that nothing new can come
or will come
or that God will make it come.
And yet somewhere within us, this tenacious thing we call hope won't seem to let imagination die. History tells us that people in even the worst circumstances have somehow found hope. Stories of hope inspire us. Movies about hope move us. It's why we find a Rey of hope in Star Wars. We connect with stories that narrate good overcoming evil, light overcoming darkness. Hope awakening.
Many of us turn not only to Star Wars but also to our holy books for hope, and I wonder if it's simply because they are ancient that hope uniquely springs from old, old people. People who lived before us had reason to give up, but astoundingly, they maintained imagination for hope. Their stories of hope survived, and somehow, inexplicably, that helps us survive.
When I open my Bible this Advent season, two ancient women, Mary and Hannah, are tutoring me in hope.
Childless Hannah, who begged and prayed and cried for a baby, was getting nothing in answer to her prayers except bullying from perhaps the first Mean Girl ever, Peninah.
Powerless Mary, an obscure teenage girl, was called to believe that her unplanned pregnancy was a part of a powerful plan bigger than herself.
Two brave and courageous women who could have given up, did not give up.
They boldly proclaimed that there are real reason to hope!
Ancient song-writers, they both broke free from the chains of hopelessness and burst forth with new songs.
In contrast to the doubting men in each of their stories,
these women dared to hope,
not some polite, spiritualized hope,
not some cutesy, naïve hope,
not some Miss-America world peace hope.
Despite the political chaos of both their situations, they sang politically-incorrect messages of justice for all, peace for all, hope for all.
Despite their place at the bottom of societal pyramids, they defiantly attested to hope far greater than the false control, power, domination, and greediness that put them there.
They said that God holds the foundations of the earth, even when the earth feels like it is shaking with injustice.
They proclaimed that God is acting in history, fulfilling promises and blessing people, even though circumstances may appear to the contrary.
They believed in hope when it looked like hope was being trumped.
And somehow, perhaps particularly because they were the most unlikely candidates for hope, their songs soared above the chaos and challenged others who were hopeless to look up and imagine.
If, like me, you wonder where hope comes from, open your Bibles and read these beautiful stories of women who spoke out of their days into ours. You can find them in 1 Samuel chapters 1-2 and Luke chapters 1-2.
Their stories cause us to ask,
what made these strong women sing such valiant songs?
Can you imagine hope like theirs?
That's what I want for Christmas.