In a song from Les Miserables, Fantine mourns her shattered dream. Weeping, she sings:
But the tigers come at nightAnd later:
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.Everyone reading this has lost a dream to the strangling grasp of life. What dream did you bury? What dream do you continue to exhume?
On a now-famous day in August of 1963, a man well-familiar with personal pain and shattered dreams stood before a crowd of thousands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared his dream. Later he still held to that dream as he evidenced in the words from 1967 that we now hear:
If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully stated, hope is indeed “that courage to be.”
I want to point you in the right direction in which you can choose to travel and to the journey along which you will discover the sources of Hope from which come strength as you tap into them.
Like the Oz-bound brainless Scarecrow pointing in all directions, shared opinions, spoken philosophies, and a plethora of spiritual teachers will steer you toward a hope found in self-actualization and/or the true fulfillment of your inner being. For the follower of Christ, however, the only true guidance comes from Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). This Christ spoke all things into being, including the Word of God as found in the New and Old Testaments. Let us, then, turn to the Old Testament to find the map for our journey toward Hope.
1 Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
Psalm 102:1-7 (1984 NIV)
Withered heart, vanishing days, no appetite for food – the situation appears hopeless. Yet (oh yes, yet), the afflicted man dares raise his eyes to take in the wider view of life. There his eyes or, perhaps more so, his spirit found a profoundly delightful focus. God came near.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”
Psalm 102:25-28 (1984 NIV)
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, wrote:
“Hope is hope for infinite Hope.”
Notice the capitalization of the last “H” in the sentence.
To push “shift” as one types that last word’s first letter, is to recognize that hope, in order to last, must claim God as its source, motivation and destination.
In 1626, from the pulpit of the immense and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the English poet and pastor John Donne proclaimed the following words about death on Christmas Day, of all times. I am glad he did.
Others die as martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found Golgotha (where he was crucified) even in Bethlehem where he was born. For to his tenderness then, even the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as his cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. (Hendrix 53)
While I am quite sure that Jesus the newborn child did not formulate thoughts of the cross while still in the manger, I do know that when the soldiers led Him up to Golgotha, it was no surprise to Him.
Ultimately and immediately, you will discover Hope if you will look forward to the Lord’s return and will look backward to see His willingness to die.
Hendrix, John. Celebrate Advent Worship and Learning Resources. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1999.