by Rev. Garrett Rocha
Considering the subject of hope, the thing that readily comes to my mind is superheroes. American culture today has a special love for heroes, as seen by their dominance in our media. They embody the virtues, characteristics, and ideals, after which we strive. One hero that comes to mind that best represents hope is DC Comics The Flash. The Flash made his first appearance in 1940 and has many introductions since then. For those of you not familiar with the hero, he has the power to harness the mysterious Speed Force, allowing him to reach speeds beyond the speed of light. He has earned the title "The Fastest Man Alive." Ever since the hero's debut during WWII, the "Scarlet Speedster" uses his power to save lives and defend those who cannot defend themselves. All between the ticks of a second. [www.dcuniverse.com/encyclopedia/flash] He arrives just in the nick of time to save the innocent from evildoers, natural disasters, and the occasional runaway train. There are many iterations of the hero, and he has had to overcome impossible odds to save the day. There is one story in which Barry Allen embodies the emotion of hope to defeat a foe that would destroy all life in the universe.
When faced with an impossible situation that threatens one’s life, it is natural to want someone to intercede on his/her behalf, so everything works out in the end. In a real historical sense, our desire for intervention on our behalf is nothing new. Instead of heroes in fancy Spandex suits, people have prayed to gods of various kinds for help. Each culture and religion have its own set of folk heroes and miraculous events. The Christian scriptures have many examples of heroes and miracles that point to God acting on people's behalf to bring them through to the other side.
The world is in constant need of hope and inspiration. Advent reminds Christians that the hope of the world is real and present in the world around us. Jesus embodies the hope of the Kingdom of God that can only be found in God. We see this in the way Jesus represents that promise for the people he meets. Jesus brings the hope of physical healing to the woman suffering many years of bleeding (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-8). Jesus brings the hope of God's justice as compared to human justice, with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).
Consider your faith. Why does Jesus bring you hope? We all struggle with deep personal issues and sins. Jesus brings the hope of transformation beyond those limitations, beyond our ability. Give thanks to God for that help as you consider this: How can I embody that same hope for others?
In the book, Almost Christmas, Ingrid McIntyre touches on the fact that Wesley was not some disconnected religious idealist. "Wesley saw and experienced the same societal problems as others, but instead of accepting them, he raised hell about them so that the few neglected others could experience hope. (p. 50)" Jesus is present and actively working in people's lives to bring personal redemption and transformation. But that work is hopeful because it is prophetic in how it points to the in-breaking of the Kingdom, as seen in works of justice and reconciliation. Advent reminds us of the hope that God is alongside us to make the world a better place. It is that hope that brings us through tough times, despair, and pain to a place of healing and empowerment.
As wonderful and hope-inspiring as superheroes can be, know that the real hope of the world is in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In your prayer time and devotion, I pray that you are encouraged that Jesus is present in the struggles you are experiencing. Know that Jesus is also the present and active hope that the world is seeking after. To bring focus, in this season find the truth in scripture. Read Psalm 51 as a reminder of God's work in all people's lives as they struggle.
I hope to see you on Sunday at 8:15, NINE45, or 11:15 a.m. for worship. You can also go to SAUMC.NET and join us via Livestream. Blessings upon you, and I cannot wait to see you!