To hope does not mean ‘no struggles’ … Biblical Hope gives us the courage to persevere
At the end of a long year – enduring lockdowns, prevention measures, going without work, food and “nice things” we are all used to – some people might find it hard to get excited about Christmas and the spiritual meanings of HOPE. Many people have lost hope and just try to make the best for today, because tomorrow we might be dead!
This negativity can spring up inside of us, especially, after set-backs in life such as: losing my job, or a relative dies and we don’t know how to pay the bills, or my phone gets stolen, or a power-surge destroys my new printer (12 months of savings), etc. Or, I spend lots of money travelling to University and paying advances for accommodation, and then told to go home for 3 months because classes are suspended! Money gone for no benefit.
Against all of that negativity, today we hear three different voices – but each from God:
1. Isaiah: A message of hope for a bright future will be fulfilled through our total conversion
2. Peter to Christians expecting the Lord to come again quickly: they notice that nothing is happening; so, is the Day of the Lord just a useless dream?
3. John the Baptist: repent and come back to God.
I’m not sure about you, but sometimes I get tired of hearing this repentance thing. You know, we are trying hard to survive and be good – most of the time – and now we get told: repent! So, how can we put a positive spin on this instruction today? First, let’s look at an analogy:
I want to get to Meru from Nairobi. I drive towards Nakuru. After reaching Naivasha, my passenger says: “hey, you’re going the wrong way! You need to turn around.” Now my pride speaks: “shut up, I know what I’m doing!” So the passenger keeps quiet, and we continue to Nakuru, then Nyahururu, Nanyuki and finally Meru. The journey is long and quite expensive.
We made it to Meru, eventually, but due to the long distance I used more money for fuel, more stops for food (and money), the car needed more maintenance, the police stopped me more often, etc. And when I arrived I was good for nothing except bed for 10 hours.
So, where are we headed to in life? Which road are we using? What means are we using? Many in Kenya – & half the world – are obsessed with money as the thing to make us happy. Even many Christians have a split personality: keep God happy on Sunday & forget by Monday
Today’s readings remind us that God does not lose patience with us, or throw us away because we forget God by Monday. The call to repentance is not to tell us we are bad, but to try and save us unnecessary hardship, disappointment and exhaustion: so we can see God more often.
The bottom line for Christmas is this: we need a conversion from where we are, to move closer to God. Even a small step will bring more blessings. What could these small steps be:
1. Married life: swallow our pride and ask permission from each other;
2. Single life: be generous to others, even when I’m poor myself;
3. Student life: spend an extra hour at study, rather than listening to music or watching videos.
4. For everyone: take a little time to read the church social teachings: the environment, relationships, economics and employment issues: education leads to better decisions, which leads to better outcomes in society = a better life for you and me.
For the younger people, I encourage you to reflect on the process of a butterfly being born: don’t look at the older people and say: “I deserve that as well”. Build your foundations and achieve something even better!
The birth of a butterfly is only achieved when it struggles out of the cocoon.
During the struggle to break free, blood is pushed out to the very end of each wing.
Someone tried to help the butterfly by cutting the cocoon and ‘freeing’ the butterfly early.
But, once it was free, it died because its wings were useless.
Our society challenges young people, and blocks them here and there, not because they are a burden or stupid, but because we love them. We want our young people to fly in later life. An easy “birth” means you will not fly, but crawl for the rest of your life: frequently complaining and blaming others.
For us older people, are we frequently complaining and blaming others? If we find ourselves doing so, it’s a good reminder to us that we need to turn-around,
change and allow God to convert our lives.
Wouldn’t all of us much prefer to live in peace and live for the joy we see in people we assist? I pray us older people can show more humility, and hope, for our young people to imitate, and so make a beautiful world for all of us to enjoy.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI