From Here to Hope
Well, this is just so 2020. Besides the fact that there were locust swarms in Africa, murder hornets in the U.S., raging wildfires in Australia, Washington State and Oregon, a bitter and contested presidential election, social unrest and, of course, the world-wide pandemic, I just read that there's a new invasive species showing up in the southeast. It's a four-foot long, ten-pound lizard that eats anything. I'm not joking. Google it. Given the way this year has gone, I wouldn't be surprised if at midnight on New Year's Eve, the year 2020 held a press conference and announced that it was refusing to concede.
Seriously, if we hadn't experienced so much tragedy over the last 11 months, you'd have to laugh. But laughter has been hard to come by when there has been so much to cry about. If you're like me, you'd like just to forget this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
But forgetting would be a mistake. The way back to hope is remembering.
Like people with amnesia, we have forgotten that others have been here before and that they survived. If we remembered their survival, we could read their records to learn how people who are staggered by loss regain their footing.
There was such a people. There is such a record and it is honest. It is filled with stories of barrenness, grief, doubt and rage. But it is as hopeful as it is honest. Because the barrenness gives way to birth. The grief gives way to peace. The doubt is replaced by certainty. The rage is satisfied by justice. Read these old words from a book whose very title could sum up this year; Lamentations.
My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord. 19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:18 - 20 NIV)
If the book of Lamentations ended at vs. 20, all we could say is that someone, somewhere at least knew what it was like to live in an unhinged world. But the painful honesty of verses 18 – 20 is followed by these words:
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:21 - 26 NIV)
How can someone who so eloquently describes his struggle with despair pen words so equally full of confidence? That would be a good thing for us to know. Because if the prophet was able to see a light shining in the darkness, maybe we can, too. The difference between unrecoverable desolation and unintimidated confidence in the future is hope.
So how do you get from here to hope? How do you conjure the confidence that God will do something awesome out of all this awful? Memory. Yet this I call to mind. Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, found hope by remembering God's faithfulness in the past. If God was with his people, he will be with his people. Which is why, maybe more than ever, we need Christmas.
But Christmas may feel like a giant contradiction to us this year. Everything is lit up and decked out, but we're not sure there are enough lights in the world to chase away the darkness. Everywhere we go we hear joyful music, but it sounds like a mismatched soundtrack for the life we're living. Like somebody cued up calliope music for a funeral. We feel completely out of sync with the season.
Until we remember the story behind all the lights and colors and music. God came to a dark and broken world, a world that had all but forgotten how to sing or shine or celebrate. He came in the blessed disguise of a child to bring peace and love and joy. And he came to bring hope.
Author Paul Auster said, "Memory is the space in which a thing happens for a second time." When we remember the manger, Jesus is born to us again. And that gives us hope.
For more on hope, click the link below to watch or listen to the sermon A Four Gift Christmas: Something you Want.