Why is Hope so important?
It was just a little flower growing out of a bit of cracked paving. I guessed that a seed had blown in the wind, lodged in the crack, then found water and a bit of soil washed in there by the rain. All it then needed was a glimmer of sunshine and, Lo and Behold, a little flower grows out of a hard-tarred pavement. She’ll soon be pollinated by a bee and, in the autumn, her seeds will go blowing around, just as she did; next year, there will be a small patch of ‘Creeping Jennies’ splashing sunny colour all over that drab bit of cracked paving. Looking at it made me think of that lost seed, blowing in the wind, fearing it would never come to anything, yet hoping to find somewhere to take root and flower. And it did, just by chance, it did. Moral: sometimes things work out better than you could possibly expect, just when you think they never will.
That’s the Charles Dickens’s, Mr Micawber, kind of hope; refusing to despair and doggedly hoping for something to turn up, which indeed it does for him in that wonderful novel David Copperfield. But we Christians are guided to think more deeply of Hope in relation to its two fellows, Faith and Charity (generous loving). Faith, Hope and Charity are the three great theological virtues – and so the marks of truly Christian living. The three of them hang together; you can’t have the one without the other two! What would Faith be without Hope and Charity, or Hope without Faith and Charity, or Charity without Faith and Hope? This way of thinking about Hope goes way beyond sitting back and waiting for something good to happen … when it might not. This kind of Hope is meant to change the world, change every situation, bring new realities into being – but that doesn’t happen just by waiting a long time and doing nothing.
Alison, my wife, has just come to tell me about her tame Robin. She feeds him meal worms every morning and every morning he comes to the window to sing to her. This evening, with the weather wet and very cold, and the promise of a hard night to get through, he popped up at the window and sang to her. Sure enough, his dish of meal worms needed filling, so she filled it and he tucked into it with great enthusiasm. Without a hope upon which to act, Alison’s Robin would not have come to her for food. In that case, he may well not have had the energy to get himself through a cold, wet night. Alison will be overjoyed to see him back again tomorrow morning, singing hopefully at her window – her hopes of his survival, his hopes of her generosity, all fulfilled.
So, what of my Christmas hopes for this chaotic, traumatised, world of ours? What can I say of its over-population, new waves of desperate migration, economic crisis, environmental and ecological catastrophes, and endless violence? Well, this! I love it … not as much as God loves it, or loves us, but I do love it and I love its peoples and its creatures. And I have a huge hope for it all, just as I have a huge hope and faith in God’s charitable love for us all. We will come through it all, not easily, not without great changes to everything and everyone, and not without making many sacrifices. But there is a better future to hope for, and so to work for, and it will be wonderful.