May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing
The 2nd Sunday of Advent
Paul tells his readers in this week's reading from the Epistle to the Romans that a backward glance into Israel's scriptures should give them reason to hope for the future. If they keep their eyes open to what is presently happening around them in a church which is bringing together elements of society which had previously been at enmity into one fellowship in Christ, they should again have reason to hope for what is to come.
So to where the risk lies: to the unseen future. Paul launches into a blessing at the end of the passage.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Belief here is not mere credulity. Not all whims and hungers will magically be provided for. You've never promised your own children that. When you usher your grown children into the world, with some assurance that things will be well, you are not telling them that nothing will ever go wrong. You are telling them, hopefully, that they now know enough to find their way through. And that the ideals they have gleaned from the communities of their childhood are valuable. Most importantly, they are portable. They can be exercised in new circumstances and within new communities long after grandparents, parents, parish priests and teachers have gone to their reward. The past and the present prepare us for the future.
So, too, with Paul's description of hope. Those who desire to be numbered among the servants of the living God find that they can harvest from the past and the present exactly what is needed to take the next step in a new direction. God, through the power of his Holy Spirit, walks along with his Creation and within the human family he is drawing to himself. All of the "fear nots" of the Gospels are here - that whole history of faith which stretches back to Abraham.
We are a part of that history. What he has done in the past, he will do again.