Wishing? Almost, but not quite.
Longing? Yes, but more.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says, "Hope isn't an emotion; it's a way of thinking." She goes on to cite another researcher (C. R. Snyder)and point out that hope actually involves us looking towards something, planning towards something, and acting towards something. And most of all . . . hope has belief.
We just came through our (Re)union series in which we talked about the good news of Jesus in 30 words: Jesus is God with us come to show us God's love, save us from sin, set up God's kingdom, and shut down religion, so we can share in God's life. We rehearsed this and talked about it in groups, large and small, over eight weeks.
But I never really asked. Are you able to hope that this is true?
I don't mean do you wish it was true or do you long for it to be true.
Are you able to have a confident hope in the truth (which I believe it to be) that God of the universe became flesh to offer all of this, not just to us, but to you? Do you believe, do you have the confident hope that you are worth it?
There is a huge and significant corporate/community element to the good news. That's why the "us" term is so important. But the good news is also for you. Jesus came to show you God's love, save you from sin, set up God's kingdom (in which you can have citizenship), and shut down religion (and your striving that comes with it) so you can share in God's life.
God loves you.
Not the you that you bring to church on Sunday morning telling everyone that everything is "fine."
Not the you that you wish you were.
Not the you that you promise yourself you will be once you finally get around to . . . (fill in your own vice, addiction, goal, desired accomplishment here).
God loves you. He sees every part of you and declares, through Jesus, that:
I know many of you. I know that you long to have those around you to know this love of God. I know that you want to pass it along to your children and friends and neighbours. You want to share it with your spouse. You want to spread it to the community.
But I'm beginning to realize that none of us can truly share what we do not know ourselves. How we live speaks far more than what we say. And no matter how many times I tell you that you can be free and vulnerable and open before God and he will love you exactly as you are, if I still hide behind my mask and camouflage my struggles you will feel you need to as well.
I experienced a powerful picture of this a couple of weeks ago. I was speaking with a group of students about some of the things that hurt them. In the midst of initial sharing, an adult in the room shared her childhood experience of pain. It led to a level of vulnerability in the children that is rare and often gets shut down because we can't fix their pain. The vulnerability was beautiful, but what happened next was even more beautiful. The adult that shared invited the children who were hurting to come and sit with her. She saw their pain and showed them, both with her own story and with her presence, that they were truly loved and accepted with their masks off and their walls down.
As we move through our advent season, I pray that you will look towards Christmas with a genuine hope recognizing that this is what God gives through Jesus - this vulnerable baby who was and is also the God of the universe. He gives you a person who sees you, knows you, and says that you are loved - you are accepted.
Dare to hope - truly hope - that this is true.