Just recently I was talking to a Big Issue seller who told me he had no hope for the future. His life, he said, was so broken and messed up that it took him all his time to get up in the morning. I felt extraordinarily sad as I listened to him but his reflection led me to ask myself 'do I live in hope' and 'what is hope'?
Sometimes it's easier to say what hope isn't. Hope isn't dependent on the circumstances of our lives or whether people like us or don't like us. Hope is not wishful thinking. You know I hope I win the lottery or I hope my football team win the league. For those of us of the Christian faith hope is a person who was longed for and waited for.
If you go to the Scriptures you'll find woven into the fabric of Jewish belief a growing awareness and hope that God was coming to save them. Hoping was a way of life. The sadness is that they weren't open enough to see their hopes fulfilled. They didn't expect their hope to be fulfilled in a tiny baby born in a hovel, who grow up to be a radical preacher who made himself unclean and died a criminal's death on a rubbish heap called Golgotha.
Pope Francis has recently said, 'Hope is something else. Hope has a name. Hope is Christ. Jesus the hope renews everything. It's a constant miracle.'
If we are baptised into Christ then we are baptised into hope, and I think at the beginning of a new year the greatest gift we can ask for is an increase in hope as we face the future.
The American Franciscan Richard Rohr says, 'Hope is not occasioned by things working out as we expected. If our hope rises or falls according to circumstances, we do not have hope.'
The challenge for all of us is to trust God in the darkest moments, to trust God in the moments of questioning and wondering and doubting. To trust God when it looks as though our world is falling apart and sometimes to trust that God's ways are not our ways.
Our hope in God has nothing to do with life's circumstances but everything to do with the bigger picture. God can still be our hope when the world is falling apart because God is God. So this year pray that you be filled with hope because of the presence of the risen Christ in your life and share that hope with the world. It's the greatest gift we can give.