Advent is a great time of hope!! I want to remind all of us of what a joyous time this really by looking especially at the first reading. But first I want to share with you what I have seen these days. There have been ads for Black Friday, Black Saturday, and special ads for weekend shopping. I have seen people pushing forward in store lines and then fighting. I also have seen people camping out in front of stores like Best Buy or Target to be able to enter the store at the moment the store opens. I also have noticed that some families have not been able to eat together because they have had to go to work during the Thanksgiving holidays. In one Walmart store they had food barrels out to collect food so their employees could have a little food during the holidays.
This first reading emphasizes so much, much more. This reading is so broad and so strong that we must take heart and remember that there is great hope for all people. This hope is just waiting to be reached for and grabbed with two hands. Hope can seem intangible and not real when the world around us is full of sickness and bad things. But this reading from Isaiah gives us great hope that because of Jesus and grace our world can be a rich place.
Hope is not a word. It is a dynamic living source of life. Hope is all around us and gives us the strength to go on. Isaiah writes that the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb. In our knowledge and wisdom we know this is not possible in the real world. But in the realm of God this is precisely what happens. A recent treaty with Iran has started a hopeful process that peace might really come to the Middle East. There a movement seems to be started that will give peace and resolution to the region.
Hope is a verb that enables strangers and families to begin again where hope has been absent for long periods of time. Isaiah writes that the calf and young lion will browse together, talk together, and be together. How will this happen? We do not know. But all great things are possible if we believe together and work for change. It will take imagination, courage and belief that God wants us to hope and work for change we may never see.
Hope is so incredible that our minds often cannot see the radical changes that are possible. We live in a world that is often unkind. It has perimeters, rules, expectations, and evil. We learn quickly what we can do and what we cannot do. This reading from Isaiah tells us to drop the blinders from our eyes and see the unexpected. Be willing to see the cow and the bear are neighbors and see their young rest and sleep together. We are to go beyond just seeing the animals with their characteristics but see the movement of peace making progress with compassion and hope.
Hope is believing in what we cannot see. Hope is going forward each day with optimism courage that good will win out and all matter of issues and problems can be solved. We may get discouraged and think that nothing we can do can change the world. But, we are wrong. Going forth each day with hope that Jesus and good will be stronger and more powerful than evil. We will see that the ox and the lion will eat together when we least expect it.
Isaiah continues to say that: "There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord". This is not an idle saying or an idealist thought. We should be all working for this goal. It is not a goal that is set to high for us. I should work and be aware every day that one day everyone will see the knowledge of God.
I have been thinking a great deal about Nelson Mandela this week. He was imprisoned for twenty-seven years. He could have been resentful and vengeful at his captors, but he chose to not to be that way. I would like to say that again. He chose not to be resentful of his captors even though the thought did enter his mind. He had the hope for himself and his country that change could happen.
We, too, have choices about what we think about and how we act. It is much easier to keep grudges and keep negative attitudes about situations than to work for change. This change I am talking about starts with ourselves. Hope for the future begins with changing our thinking process. Hope will flourish if we believe that each one of us can be a change agent for good. Hope; unlimited belief that things can and will be better. We need to realize that all things are possible with God. Hope in God and for a better world is the way we need to live.