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Radical Hope

To journey without being changed
is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying
is to be a chameleon.
To journey and to be transformed
by the journey
is to be a pilgrim.

                       (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening)


Ready or not, here we are at the beginning of Advent. The choice we have to make is will we embrace this journey to Christmas, different as it may be this year, to make the most of it, to be transformed by the difference… or not? Will be be pilgrims? Or will we be nomads who wander without purpose or meaning or growth, or chameleon’s who change color, but refuse to move an inch?  

Perhaps the very fact that things are different this year will give us a new powerful perspective. But it is only in being willing to open up, to trust the Spirit in the midst of the journey, that growth and transformation will happen.

Advent almost always begins by talking about hope. This seems to be the grounding force for all of it – love, joy, peace, promises, preparing, waiting – you name it, each element of Advent requires hope as a spring-board.

Sadly we seem to be in short supply of hope these days.

I have a friend, who works with a variety of clients every day, she came home one night this last week and was just sick to death of people. It seems that all people have been able to talk about these days is COVID and the election. She said they just won’t stop. She has a sign on her wall saying declaring her space a COVID and election free zone, but people don’t care. Trying to distract them, she asked what they were doing these days and they say “nothing” which leads back to COVID. She asked what they were doing for Thanksgiving and that set off another round of complaining about COVID! There seem to be no safe questions to ask! It is sucking the life out of her.

Is this really how small our lives have become? Imagine what a wonderful relief it would be for someone to see my friend and be upbeat, hopeful, and positive? This is a choice, friends. Who will we be?

So, let’s talk about the prophet Jeremiah…

After several generations of being tossed back and forth by various rulers, the kingdom Judah was about to experience upheaval: a new Babylonian threat, which would eventually reshape the land and its people. Jeremiah would live to see the destruction of Jerusalem, the Babylonian exile, and the end of the kingdom of Judah.

In Jeremiah 32 and 33, the prophet addresses a people who are feeling helpless and hopeless. Their lives are under the control of rulers and empires that make decisions based on political expediency and power. Jeremiah is known as a harsh prophet, sternly warning the wicked of the judgment they will incur if they do not adhere to the laws of the God of the Hebrew people. However, in these few verses, we hear a more comforting and hopeful voice. Jeremiah has just shown ultimate faith in God, in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation. Under arrest in the palace of the king of Judah, having been told by God that the Israelites will be handed over to the Babylonians, Jeremiah has just bought a piece of land, trusting that, as God has assured him, “with God, all things are possible.” (Jer. 32:24-27) God assured him that even though things are going to be rough for a while, it will get better.

Jeremiah tells the people that Yahweh is promising a “righteous branch.” We read this passage during Advent because it has been used as a prophecy for the coming of Jesus. However, in the ensuing chapters it becomes clear that the righteous branch is not to be embodied in one individual; it is embodied by a community. Righteous is a tough word, a religious word that often causes us to shy away. But the word simply means that a person does their best to be a good, kind, faithful, caring, fair person. Jeremiah not only offers hope that things will get better, but backs it up with a concrete action. “Look, everyone, of course you should have hope! I bought some land!” 

Jeremiah exhibited a crazy, radical hope and I am inviting all of us to do the same. Knowing all of you well enough, I know that you have a bit of rebel in you, so I’m inviting you to be “positive deviants” (as Krista Tippett says). Deviate from the norm of cynicism and negativity. Catch yourself if you start saying, “Yea, but…” Spread light, and smiles and good humor and patience, and a deep knowing that things will – eventually – get better. You know this because you've lived it, I know you have.

What happens when we don’t choose hope. We get stuck on the monkey bars. Have you ever played with kids on the monkey bars? Have you noticed that to really cruise the monkey bars you have to keep swinging - no hesitating, no hedging. You must let go of the back hand while you still have momentum to swing toward the next bar. Otherwise you grab and then stall, awkwardly rocking in place but not having the momentum to move easily.  Hope propels us to keep moving, keep trusting, keep believing that there will be something to grab hold of.

We do not hope naively, believing that in the blink of an eye all will be fine again, but we hope despite the pandemic, despite the violence, despite the racism. We hope despite it all because there are still good people working for good. We hope in the goodness of the spirit to bring us back to ourselves.

As Krista Tippett reminds us, "Hope... is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory." What a great way to look at it. When hope becomes spiritual muscle memory it becomes our natural go-to way of being. It doesn’t take so much effort anymore.  We do not give up on people, or community, or kindness, or justice, because that isn’t who we are. We are the positive deviants working for transformative change on this pilgrim journey not only called Advent, but called Life.

So, Jeremiah bought a field. What crazy hopeful thing can you do that flies in the face of reason and proclaims loudly that you are a positive deviant? Here are a few ideas:

  • Decorate for Christmas even if no one is coming over
  • Hope focuses on what we DO have, not what we DON’T have. So be grateful! Share your gratitude for others and for the important things in your life.
  • Choose to focus on the positive
  • Choose to be a blessing
  • Give others an example to see that it does get better. Share your “It Gets Better” story
  • Look for things you CAN do – free online classes, clean out your house, read books
  • Post inspirational things on social media, or at least something to make someone smile (Nancy and the pictures of flowers)
  • Make space for awe and wonder
  • Surprise someone

Choose hope.

Let it become your dwelling place where you invite others to join you, have a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, and know that it gets better.


Love & Light!