By Ellen Di Giosia
Hope is a fickle thing. It seemed easy enough as a child – hope for good grades, hope for a new bike on my birthday, hope for a limitless future. Would I be a journalist? An actress? A teacher? I had no trouble imagining any of these to be possible. Even as a teenager, when I began to have a better sense of what life would be like as an adult, I could still place my hopes firmly on a good education, a fulfilling career, and a loving family. And I’ve been very lucky. All those things have come true.
But real life – honest, grown-up living – can sometimes be a hope-killer. I may have gotten a lot of what I wished for as a little girl, but so many others have not. It was easy to be hopeful in my small circle of family and friends, where everyone grew up healthy and went to college and got jobs and got married. Back then I was blissfully unaware of the vast millions of children whose greatest hope was to go to school, or of the many trapped in poverty and scarred by systemic prejudice. And I had no knowledge then of the ways that the church – always and ever a home for me – could be complicit in those prejudices or could wound the people it claimed to love.
We are indeed in “bondage to decay” (v. 21), whether it is the failure of our bodies, our spirits, or our systems we feel most acutely. When our hearts ache with despair, we can only ask for a fuller measure of hope. “For hope that is seen is no hope at all” (v. 24). During Advent, we learn a bit of what it means to wait expectantly – to hope in something we cannot see. All our Christmas celebrations can distract us from remembering that the baby we revere was hailed neither as king nor God throughout his life, and that his life came to what seemed a terrible end. Our hope is not just in the tiny baby in a manger, but also in the risen and glorious Christ who liberated us from slavery and in whom our hope now rests.