Hope is the one ingredient that we want to never lose. It is the feeling of expectation and desire for something to happen that will be a blessing, will provide an answer, or perhaps an escape from something we wish to avoid facing.
We falter with hope as we travel through our days because we often hope in people or things that disappoint us, let us down, and cause us to doubt anyone is for us and what we seek. Not everything we long for comes to pass. The position we sought goes to someone else or disappears. The raise we were counting on evaporates in the economic downturn. The person we loved doesn’t love us as we wish. The medical miracle we hope for doesn’t happen. Friendships change and we feel alone. Life is a series of things like that until we consider the one truth that came at a time of great darkness for those who lived then – hope comes through the most unlikely places and the only One true source in whom we can hope – God, our only hope.
From the beginning of humankind’s existence, we have grappled with hope and that fateful disobedience in the Garden left an imprint in our DNA of doubting God’s goodness or understanding how evil operates in this world with all the things that come with it – disease, death, famine, war, selfishness, corrupt governments, and more. It caused Israel to question every promise God gave to that people. Things never went the way our human minds thought they should, and they doubted God was with them. They trusted people more than God. They hoped in human governments more than the Kingdom. Even after they were released from the slavery in Egypt, they questioned. Prophets told them of the One who would come to bring his peace and reign and they waited and as they waited, they doubted more as time went by.
They couldn’t believe hope would come on a cold night in the form of a baby born to an unknown couple in a stable outside Bethlehem. How could that be? They were under the heel of the Roman Empire and needed a warrior, a king with an army that would defeat these forces that kept them poor and unable to risk hoping. What could a baby do for them? It didn’t make sense and so many missed this event we seek to celebrate in these days of Advent.
In May of 1977, millions of people lined up to see a movie that everyone was excited about. It was the first movie in what became the epic Star Wars series, and it didn’t start at the beginning of the story but rather we entered the tale in Episode 4. Most of us don’t recall the title of that episode. It was “A New Hope.”
The backdrop is the unfolding of evil forces battling to control the universe, a theme we have seen on screens and in real life many times. The movie screen lights up with the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” Scene by scene we discover we are watching a civil war waged by forces who have created a death star meant to bring the universe under their control and that a Princess Leia is racing home to her people with the blueprint of this death star to show how it can be destroyed before her people and planet are eliminated. As stories often go, she cannot make fast her escape and gives a message to a droid, R2D2, to carry the plans back. The message begins with her plea to someone she believes can save them, “Help me, Obi-Wan-Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
If you know the movie, you know that this character, Obi-Wan-Kenobi, is an old Jedi knight born of another time when Jedi Knights operated with the power of “the force” against evil and kept evil from total success in the universe.
Those who find the droid go looking for this person and when they find him, they believe he will be someone who can save the day for them and save the princess in the bargain. How shocked they are when he comes face-to-face with the most potent enemy, Darth Vader, and he chooses what they cannot believe. As the enemy gloats that he will kill Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan tells him that when he is cut down, a much greater power will be unleashed than he can imagine. And then, he turns off his light saber offering himself to death.
It seems all is lost as planets and warriors are decimated into bits, but then those who believed in Obi-Wan and “the Force” begin to “hear” his voice within, leading and guiding them in battle, helping them at every step of the way. Not all are saved, but those who follow that inner voice begin to experience the power they believed was not open to them in their feeble unskilled experience. And because Obi-Wan was gone, the evil could not be sure of where the power would come from or how it might be used against them. It wasn’t a victory they win in that first fight that would eliminate all evil forces, but the beginning of a story that would unfold through more episodes that would keep moviegoers coming back to theaters for years to come.
Little wonder we see a similar story unfold in the New Testament as the children of Israel are still hoping for a Messiah to save them and then miss his birth as the One who is hope. When He grew from that baby into manhood and began teaching in the synagogue and on hillsides and in fishing boats, many missed Him again. Yes, there were disciples who followed and helped Him as he went, but even they could not conceive that instead of taking power from the Roman Empire, He would lay down his life on a cruel cross and multiply his power for evermore. Now He would operate unseen by human eyes and yet could be heard by common shepherds, children, and any and all who would believe.
And here we are again, reliving a familiar story. The pandemic that was to be defeated has become a tridemic, a vaccine that was to be the answer does not solve or defeat the virus, wars go on, economies struggle, and we look for hope in a better place (if we are wise). We wonder if God is with us in this day and if He is, why He doesn’t move to get us out of this mess.
“The present age does not have the last word.
Life that leads us through the wilderness is unexpected and daunting. It can drop us to our knees in prayer and supplication or cause us to ignore what’s best in order to gain a quick entrance to the other side. This is the intersection of life where God is waiting. This is where we either say “yes” to God and trust Him to provide and protect, or we grab the steering wheel to maneuver the path in our own power.”Mary Geisen in The Advent Narrative
These wise words remind us that the path we casually read in the Old and New Testament or see played out in a film like Star Wars is repeating itself but this time, we are the players in the scene. Will we miss our role? Will we put our hope in sources that cannot help us? Will we believe that the One who died is very much present with us now even though our physical eyes cannot see Him?
Mary Geisen pointed to the truth in the pandemic of 2020, and it holds true in our present day.
“But in the middle of this crisis, we as believers can rest in the truth that Jesus arrived two thousand years ago as a baby ready to live and die for our transgressions. We can proclaim with the authority of Jesus that He will come again as we wait for the pandemic to subside. Most of all, our hearts can cry together “Come, Lord Jesus” as we hold the present and future in the palm of our hands, believing that God already has this figured out.”Mary Geisen from The Advent Narrative