“Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
– Psalm 33:18-22
Beginning about four weeks before Christmas, Christians observe the season of Advent. During this time of preparation for Christmas, each week has a different theme. The theme for the first week is Hope. It is a word I cannot think about without remembering one of my favorite films. I don't have to see the whole movie, just the ending, and my eyes fill with tears at Morgan Freeman's narration: “I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.” It gets me every time. I think “The Shawshank Redemption” resonates with me because it is about the power of hope, even in a seemingly hopeless situation.
I have never served time in a maximum security prison like Andy and Red did (and certainly never want to!), but like those characters in the movie, I have to choose between hope and despair every day. In the face of hard realities in my life, as well as the tragedy and injustice I see as a hospital chaplain, it is sometimes tempting to declare things hopeless. But then I look at Jesus.
In accounts of his life, I see hope that things will not always be as they are now, that God will make sure that injustice, violence, sickness, even death will not have the last word. And more than anything, I see in Christ the certain hope that God loves us too much to stay at a safe distance, but comes into the messy midst of our lives instead. It is that steadfast love, displayed in Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23), in which my tenacious hope takes root.
God of hope, thank you for your presence among us. Let the reminder of your steadfast, unfailing love pull us back from despair in our darkest moments, and give us hope this season and all year long.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent