Have you ever noticed that God gets your attention in ways that you don’t always expect? I had a seminary professor who often said coincidence is God’s way of being anonymous. Let’s just say God has been a master of anonymity for me recently.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend a women’s leadership luncheon within my organization. The keynote speaker was the new CEO. Although he has been here a few months, this was the first time I had heard his presentation on the new mission and vision for our healthcare organization. I was struck with one phrase . . . “to elevate hope.” I work for huge healthcare system. We have over 60,000 employees and we had over 5 million patient encounters in the last year. The rest of the vision included “improving health” and “advancing healing.” As a physician, those aspirations feel right as I try to be an instrument of healing every day. But, hearing his eloquent vision really made me wonder how many times, in my small percentage of those encounters, I had elevated hope.
I’d been pondering the concept of hope as we have been walking through the Advent season with our kids. In our home, we have an Advent wreath on the kitchen table. Every week we share an Advent devotional and light one of the Advent candles. (Four candles, four kids, so no fighting over who gets to light a candle!) We have done this for several years and it’s now a tradition that my kids expect and anticipate. The first Sunday of Advent is centered around Hope. We read a devotion, and then we asked the question of our children.
What is hope? My kids had various answers. One said that hope was believing something good was going to happen. Another said it was looking forward to something, like getting the Christmas presents you want. Another said it was anticipating an event, like a Spring Break vacation.
It turns out, my kids were pretty close to the Webster definition: “to cherish a desire with anticipation; to desire with expectation of obtainment.”
Today, I went with my family to see the newest Star Wars movie, Rogue One. I knew I was going to love it before I even saw it because I am a lifelong Star Wars fanatic! I have fond memories of seeing the first 3 movies as a little girl with my Dad! I wanted to be Princess Leia (I even had the hair for a while), and I wanted to marry Han Solo. I even asked for my own Chewie for Christmas on multiple occasions! Yes, I am sure I have felt the force . . .
I did not, however, expect to have a spiritual encounter today. I won’t spoil it for those of you who have not seen it, but let me share with you the movie is all about hope. Two lines resonated with me as I left the theater. Midway through the movie, there’s an intense scene wherein the heroine is trying to convince the Rebel Council to go into battle. A naysayer asks if she seriously expects the Council to rally the troops on nothing but hope. The heroine affirms that “all rebellions are built on nothing but hope.”
Then, the last scene of the movie shows a soldier approaching his leader saying he has just received a transmission from another ship. He asks her, what message did they send us? Princess Leia replies: “They have sent us hope.”
Hope. It is what we all long for. Without it, our hearts, our bodies and our spirits grow weary. Proverbs 13:12 affirms: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Maybe that’s what our CEO understood when he crafted the concept of hope into the mission statement of a healthcare organization.
Hope. It does bring healing. And, it brings meaning and purpose to suffering when physical healing does not happen or results are not seen.
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:2-5).
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:24).
Hope. What is it, really? I believe it is a deep and abiding faith in the baby born to this world thousands of years ago. It is the cornerstone of the Advent season. It is the Hope of the world that has been sent to us: For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity (Isaiah 9:6-7).
This Hope may not have inspired the characters of Rogue One, but this Hope should inspire those of us who call ourselves believers this Advent season. As Hebrews 6:19 states: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
In these days before Christmas, I wish for you this blessing from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
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