The poet Shelley, a critic of British culture and brother of Mary, who wrote "Frankenstein", wrote these words in the early 19th century:
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From it’s own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, not falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory
Trapped by Hope
Hope sometimes feels like driving a car down a short road with a big wall in front of you. It "suffers woes which Hope thinks infinite". We keep going even against all the odds. We find ourselves "trapped by hope". We keep seeking to create Hope from the wreck of Hope.
You experience this virtually every time we go shopping. However bad things around we keep humming or hearing "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas". We love to dream. "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" Maybe next year all "your troubles will be out of sight."
We "pick ourselves up, dust ourself down, and start all over again."
Prisoners of hope
Shelley shares with the biblical writers a greater hope. Zechariah speaks of "prisoners of hope" (Zechariah 9.12).
Somehow and sometimes we keep hoping even when things seem hopeless. We are trapped by hope. We keep hoping and keep coming back to hope, even when others or circumstances tell us it is stupid.
Hope is like this. Even when things collapse hope "creates from its own wreck the thing it" is hoping for. We find ourselves trapped by hope.
Even when we find ourselves in despair and discover what it is to be without hope, we wish we could have it. We are still trapped by hope. We hope to have hope.
How do we hope?
Hope is not simply a feeling. Hope is, as Shelley reminds us, something that traps us. It comes to us from outside. We are trapped by hope. We discover this in those moments when we are totally without hope. Perhaps we only know what hope truly is when we have known times without any hope.
But hope is also something we do. Hope is action. Hope is the prophet Jeremiah buying a plot of land when his home is about to be invaded. Hope is casting an anchor into the future when all seems totally lost. Hope is not simply "Dreaming of a White Christmas". Hope acts.
Hope is Jesus who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2), actively choosing the cross.
What about despair?
Sometimes though we are not trapped by hope. We experience moments or times or long periods of despair when hope totally disappears. We did not realise that such moments could exist. What do we do then? What about those moments when we are ready to give up, we do not even want hope. Our hopes have beed dashed far too often.
WE feel trapped by despair. Yet despair itself is a scream fr hope: hope yet waits at the door.
This is a moment and place that God's very self has experienced. Jesus on the cross screamed "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". There is no place that God has not been; and there is no place that God cannot deliver us from, as God delivered Jesus through death into resurrection.
Hope is not folly
Hope is not folly. It bases itself on sold ground. It rests on the promises of God. It tests everything by the scriptures. It listens to other people. It takes counsel. It ensures everything brings good, love, to others. It is rarely hasty. It endures and is tested over time.
This Advent, may we hope, in Christ who created us, who came amongst us, and will come again. May you be trapped by hope.