And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:12-13
Faith is the action you take based on the hope that is in you. Love is the manner in which you act.
Last Christmas I read Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge, through a misguided sense of the future, pinches every penny and co-opts every relationship in acts of faith toward the miserly “hope” that was in him. His nephew Fred, was one of the few in the book who escapes the gravitational pull of Scrooge’s greed narrative to rest in a greater story. In his home, where he invited Scrooge for Christmas dinner, he raises a glass and toasts,
“A merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, wherever he is!, said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘He wouldn’t take it from me, but may he have it nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge!’”
In this scene Scrooge’s heart begins to turn. He “smiles and laughs,” as he looks on with the ghost of Christmas present. Fred’s hope, generosity and kindness outweighs the self-protective, cold efficiency of Scrooge.
There is no shortage of evidence of a world without hope; therefore, there is no shortage of terrible acts of fear, anger, and resentment. Yet, as we enter into the season of Advent, we are reminded that the chosen people of Israel were leaning (imperfectly) into the hope of a coming Messiah. They gathered regularly with festivals and feasts to celebrate, even during difficult times. They fought to banish the things that would dissuade them from the hope of the coming of One who would bring peace, and who would set things right. They would light a candle to symbolize an act of hope, particularly in the presence of tragedy.
We remain in this narrative of true Hope today. On the other side of the cross, and now waiting for Christ’s return, our acts of Faith remain in line with the Hope of a God who is Love.
If we seek to solve issues outside of love, then we hope in something outside of love, but when we lean into the good news of the Gospel, we become agents of the hope of Christ. We become contagious- salt and light in our communities. We become a Fred to the Uncle Scrooges in our families, and in our cities and to one another. We join the joyful yearning of the great carol:
Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel.”
In the end, “Scrooge did it all, and infinitely more.”
He changed. And in the same way the world has changed, and will continue to change through the people of hope. Our hope is not in ourselves but in “Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. According to his power that is at work within us.” (Eph. 3:2) Where have you placed your hope this Advent season? And what actions are launched from it?