Progressive Christian Channel
The Practice of Hope: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Advent
Third Sunday of Advent
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
I have resisted hope.
I have refused to dream dreams or see visions of a better world.
I am no longer sure if all things will work together for good, especially for those that love the Lord.
It all started as a self-inflicted coping mechanism that I developed as a journalist, a professional witness to tragedy. I learned to resist hope when I crossed the yellow tape and saw the brutality of life in ways our society attempts to carefully conceal from the public eye with cordoned-off crime scenes, body bags, and the euphemistic language of death. I learned to resist hope when I watched rescue workers drag three lifeless, water-logged teenaged bodies from an overturned vehicle still half-submerged in the icy waters of a marsh. I learned to resist hope when, for weeks, I kept seeing their ghostly faces, blue with frothy terror clinging to their chins, every time I closed my eyes.
I learned to resist hope when I stood beside a weeping elderly couple embracing each other while their home burned to ash for a second time in their lives. This had been their fresh start, a home to put the last fiery tragedy behind them once and for all, except the flames and tragedy had followed them.
I learned to resist hope when I watched grieving parents thumb through their memories of children who would never return home alive from the battlefield.
Set against all this suffering and more, hope became little more than a vanity of vanities, a chasing after an indifferent wind that blows whichever way it chooses, cutting to the bone the righteous and unrighteous equally. I resisted hope even more when I heard my friends discuss their hope in God's continuing advent in the most meaningless terms -- of the miraculous locating of lost keys before an important appointment or the God-with-us moment of finding a parking space close to the entrance of a busy mall during Christmas shopping season. All the while, Christ seemed to never show up when folks needed help most.
So, I resisted. I was a conscientious objector to the notion that God came to the aid of those searching for keys to the car but remained absent in the face of tragedy. To do otherwise, I thought, would be to affirm a God with either a pathologically skewed moral compass or a palliative God fabricated by uncritical minds who believe that all things happen to the glory of God, including the fatal brain tumor of a small child, including the drowning of a teenager in a marshy slough, including the loss of a home, including crippling poverty and hunger.
David Henson is a writer who lives in Augusta, Georgia, and is currently working on a novel. He received his Master of Arts from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. His meditations on scripture have appeared in Ready the Way: A Walk through Advent (2009), the Christian Century web site, and numerous other blogs. He authors the blogs Unorthodoxology. Find him on Twitter or Facebook.