Hope is needed ev­ery day

Try putting it into prac­tice dur­ing this Ad­vent sea­son and give thanks to God

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - RELIGION/ENTERTAINMENT - BY REV. LON­NIE S. ATKIN­SON

It was the first Sun­day in Ad­vent, time to light the Ad­vent Can­dle of Hope. The chil­dren were singing, “Hope is a Star that shines in the night”. An­tic­i­pa­tion filled the air. Only 22 more sleeps un­til Christ­mas!

What were the hopes dreamed of in the hearts of those gath­ered? Peace on earth? The earth’s bio­sphere healed? Cures for the great dis­eases found? Care for all who were bro­ken, weary, lost?

Hope. Maybe folk were hop­ing Christ­mas would be less stress­ful this year. Per­haps they longed for fam­ily and friends to find joy and not to be con­sumed by pass­ing cri­sis. They might sim­ply hope for a lit­tle peace in their day. Some, I’m cer­tain, hoped the Leafs would win the Cup... but alas there are lim­its to our Ad­vent wishes.

Hope. I was work­ing with a con­gre­ga­tion who was tak­ing the great leap of faith to re­new their church fa­cil­ity as they sought to re­new their min­istry and mis­sion. The word “hope” would be fea­tured in their go­ing for­ward cam­paign. One evening as we met I in­vited them to re­flect and share what words of hope come quickly to mind when they hear the word hope.

Each was en­cour­aged to quickly think of a word for each let­ter in the word Hope. The shar­ing was rich. The pos­si­bil­i­ties lim­it­less.

When I did the same ex­er­cise in prepa­ra­tion for the study time an in­ter­est­ing the­o­log­i­cal in­sight mo­ment oc­curred. These were the words which emerged: Hospi­tal­ity. Heal­ing One­ness. Open­ness Pas­toral. Prophetic Ex­pectancy. En­thu­sia Each is pow­er­ful in its own right.

Yet gath­ered as they are they be­came re­flec­tive of the covenant, new and re­newed.

Think of it as pre- and post-Em­manuel time. Ad­vent Hope and Epiphany Hope re­vealed.

As covenant peo­ple, Is­rael put hope into prac­tice. Hospi­tal­ity was shown to strangers, neigh­bours, for­eign­ers and vis­i­tors. There was a one­ness in com­mu­nity with the peo­ple of God. They shep­herded all un­der their care mod­el­ling Pas­toral ways. All was done in a spirit of ex­pectancy as they pre­pared for the com­ing of the Messiah.

The re­newed covenant ex­pe­ri­enced in Je­sus’ birth, life, min­istry, sac­ri­fice, death and res­ur­rec­tion is to be seen and cel­e­brated in hope ful­filled. The life of the Body of Christ was and is to serve the world with Heal­ing lov­ing care. To bind up the wounded, to re­lease the cap­tives, to love into whole­ness all of God’s chil­dren.

Open­ness is to be prac­tised in com­mu­nity. No longer are we to be sep­a­rated by gen­der, faith, so­cial sta­tus, na­tion­al­ity. Rather, we are to open the doors of our homes and our hearts so all may be one.

Our mis­sion is to bring the liv­ing word to life. We are called to be prophetic, to share a new vi­sion to a world long­ing to be made new. All of this and more is in­formed and en­livened by the Spirit of God. En­thu­sia moves us and car­ries us for­ward in faith­ful­ness.

Maybe only an old preacher would find joy in these hope words. But we need hope ev­ery day.

Year af­ter year as I have shared in the Cancer So­ci­ety’s Re­lay for Life I have been moved to see the large let­ters of the word hope spelled out in glow­ing lu­mi­nar­ies, each can­dle an of­fer­ing, each a dy­namic me­mo­rial. Of­ten it is teams of high school stu­dents who cre­ate the lighted dec­la­ra­tion as they climb high in the night car­ry­ing the lights. Hope speaks to all ages and can take the dark­ness away.

In the mu­si­cal “Damn Yan­kees”, the story of a hap­less ball team, a coach of­fers these words in a fa­mous locker room pep talk, “You’ve gotta have heart, Miles and miles and miles Of heart.

When the odds are say­ing You can win,

That when the grin should start. You gotta have hope. Mustn’t sit around and mope. Not a soli­tary sigh do we heave, Mis­ter if we got hope...” This Ad­vent, put hope into prac­tice. Give thanks to God as you sing a Glo­ria or two.

Rev. Lon­nie S. Atkin­son is a re­tired Pres­by­te­rian minister. A guest ser­mon runs reg­u­larly in Satur­day’s Guardian and is pro­vided through Chris­tian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

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