By Melanie Wolf
A few weeks ago, I asked a large group of students and colleagues what image popped in their minds when they heard the word hope. I got responses like: doves, fluffy white clouds, tall trees, a smiling child, a waterfall, the horizon, light at the end of a tunnel, a sunset over the ocean, balloons, and a light in the darkness.
For me, the image that first pops into my mind when I think of hope is a tiny purple crocus pushing up through the snow and frozen ground of a Midwestern winter. I went to college in Illinois and my thin Southern blood was frozen stiff during my first winter. The long and cold days felt a bit hopeless in fact. The trees were barren, the sky was gray, and it seemed that things might never come to life again. I remember well walking to church one horridly cold morning with my head tucked down to avoid the bite of the frigid wind when I saw a tiny purple flower popping out of the freshly fallen snow. I bent down and pushed the snow aside to get a closer look at the crocus and remember my eyes filling with tears. The flower I was looking at stirred hope in me. Things would grow again. Life would push up through what was frozen, barren, and seemingly dead.
This is the great hope of Advent as well. Jesus came as a baby, the hope of God taking on flesh. Jesus was quite literally hope realized: the long awaited and prophesied Messiah who came bursting into the world stirring life out of what seemed barren and dead.
That same Jesus continues to stir life out of what seems barren and dead: broken families, life-threatening illnesses, unemployment, depression, war, even death. In Jesus we have hope that things will come to life again. Even in the dark and often hopeless world we live in, the promise of Christ’s return stirs in us a great and expectant hope.