For this third Sunday of Advent, I want to look at hope and reality.
Last week, I shared with you the conversation President Obama had with Marilynne Robinson. It included the following exchange:
Robinson: I think one of the things that is true is that many Americans on every side of every issue, they think that the worst thing they can say is the truest thing, you know?
The President: No. Tell me what you mean.
Do you know what she means? Do you find yourself uttering dire expressions about our failed system of government, our broken education system, our ruined society, or “those kids today?” Do you hear those expressions coming from people around you?
Saying the “worst things” and making strong, seemingly passionate, assertions make us feel strong. Feel informed. Feel like we see reality more clearly than other people do.
But, is it reality?
When does pessimism come into play? Can we call these assertions of the “worst things” pessimism?
If we want to change our practice of pessimism into a new practice, what is there? Optimism? Something else?
Read the following about a something else called hope:
Optimism claims everything will be all right despite reality. Hope accepts reality, the poverty of spirit that underlies all fear, instigates all tragedies, bureaucracy and institutional inertia. But hope has a trump card—the capacity of the human heart. When optimism gets ground up by reality, hope will go toe-to-toe with reality because of a heart that simply refuses to quit. And there is no reality that can overcome the capacity of the human heart to withstand and even to ask boldly, “Is that all you got? Is that the best you can do? My heart and the hearts of these people here with me are way bigger than that.” This too is what we have seen in Newtown. This is the basis for hope.
Optimism depends on the world’s dark realities relenting—they will not. Optimism requires externals to work themselves out—they will not. Hope, on the other hand, doesn’t ignore external realities; it simply knows the human heart’s capacity to withstand those realities, and it trusts in the inexhaustible power of our hearts to choose love over fear.
Is Advent calling you to hope this year? Come. Tell us.
*that’s a U2 song. Y’all know that I need U2 to get through Advent. There is not a great video online, but here is one with live audio and lyrics.