An Advent Reflection on Hope
Jim Holladay, Pastor – Lyndon Baptist Church, Louisville, KY
for Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville, KY
Hope is mysterious. We know it when we see it, but it is ephemeral. Hope seems to come and go. One minute we are full of optimism and enthusiasm for the future; the next we become overwhelmed by the flood of need or bad news and our optimism falters, and we lose hope.
Yet, the Apostle Paul lists hope as one of the enduring qualities of the Christian life – “And now faith, hope and love abide.” As the church has reflected on the qualities necessary for the life of discipleship, it developed a list of seven virtues: faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, temperance, and courage. The first three – faith, hope, and love – are known as theological virtues. They are gifts of God to us. While we can nurture and exercise those virtues, their presence in our lives comes from God. And because they are virtues, they are meant to be lived out.
Hope is a gift. Hope is foundational to our participation in God’s mission in this world. Hope is a verb.
Liberia is a country in West Africa that has been much in the news over the past 18 months, primarily because of the Ebola crisis. Between March 2014, when the first case was reported, until today, the World Health Organization has reported over 10,666 cases of Ebola, with more than 4,800 deaths. What many of us may not know is that prior to the Ebola outbreak, Liberia was recovering from 15 years of civil war and strife in which more than 200,000 persons were killed. Many thousands of others, including some of the most educated fled the country.
Between the civil wars and Ebola, the social, economic, and political life of Liberia has been stretched, perhaps beyond the breaking point. Over 50% of the population is under the age of 20. Over 80% of the people cannot read and write. The number of homeless children in Liberia is staggering. Need seems to overwhelm resources.
Yet hope lives in Liberia. During the height of the second wave of civil strife, a group of women led by a Lutheran layperson, Leymah Gbowee (pronounced Bowie), founded a movement called “Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace.” Calling together women of faith, both Christian and Muslim, this movement literally shamed the powerful government and the war lords into making peace. Their movement led to the election of the first woman President of Liberia – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Hope lives in Liberia because of the gift God implanted in Leymah Gbowee
In the wake of the devastation of the Ebola crisis, hope lives. In January of this year, the Reverend G. Cyrus Washington and Deacon Myshael Brownell, struggling with what could be done to save the children of Liberia, dreamed the dream of planting a Boys and Girls Club movement in Liberia. From January to May they worked to create an infrastructure for such a movement. In May, Rev. Washington died suddenly from a massive stroke, but the dream born in hope did not falter. By July Deacon Brownell had scraped together the resources and personnel to start a pilot project at the Gracie Reeves Memorial Baptist Church in Gayetown in Monrovia. More than 100 children and youth filled every inch of available space. Plans are to finish renovating space for the first club location and officially launch the movement in March 2016 – two years after the start of the Ebola outbreak. Hope lives in Liberia because of the gift God implanted in Cyrus Washington and Myshael Brownell.
God implants this hope – this hope for the salvation of the world – in you and me, so that we will join our Lord in his healing, redeeming, reconciling mission in this world.
Loving God, who lights the darkest corners of our world with hope, grant us that same hope today. Guide us as we anticipate the birth of your son, the precious child through whom hope came to life. As we look to the light that now shines among us, we pray that you would help us shine your hope into our communities. Amen.