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Hope is Not a Strategy

Hope is Not a Strategy
Dr. Mariette Baxendale

Talking about hope for this Advent prayer service, my immediate thoughts are:

  1. I hope they are taking this seriously.
  2. I hope they are listening.
  3. I hope I don’t mess this up.
  4. I hope I don’t say the wrong thing.

In my classes I hear:

  1. I hope I ace this exam.
  2. I hope I get an A in this class.
  3. I hope I don’t fail this exam.
  4. I hope I pass this class.

I told my husband about this and he said in business they say that hope is not a strategy. You can’t bank solely on hope and expect it to turn out OK. We have hopes for school, work, relationships, even character. Think about what you love; you can’t bank solely on hope as a strategy for reaching a goal.

Here’s the biggie: I hope I get to heaven.

Am I preparing? Or using hope as a strategy? When you think about preparing, then hope comes to earth and it becomes real.

The worst is to lose hope when it gets hard. I’ve seen guys on fire at the beginning of a Kahoot! game, but when they fall behind, they stop playing, saying they’re not going to win anyway. They’ve lost hope. The opportunity for growth has been lost. They are unable to see that there is no growth without a struggle. Without the cross, there is no resurrection. I’ve also seen a team down by 20 points at halftime, a team fraught with injuries, teams with losing records, who didn’t lose hope.

Despite the brokenness, there was the belief that we will win.

Hope is the light in the darkness, the phoenix that arises from the ashes, the open parachute, the hand that pulls you out from under the water. How beautiful it is to have working hope: hope tied with love, trust, and faith.

So how does this tie into Advent? Where does hope fit in? Advent is when we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. I’m a mom, so I identify with Mary and how she felt as an expectant mom. She must have been constantly thinking, “I hope my baby will be ok.” Fear of the unknown…the weight of responsibility of carrying a child…nine months pregnant on a donkey…in labor…and no one wants to let her in to give birth.

What strikes me is the fact that she said, “Yes.” There was an immense amount of faith and trust that came with Mary’s yes. Her yes wasn’t easy, but her yes to God allowed the Christ Child to be fed, warmed, changed, and formed within her womb. Think of that. God-made-man came in the most vulnerable form. This vulnerability helps me see God as accessible. Jesus’ humble beginning gives me hope that all of us mere humans can attain eternal salvation. What a gift.

How is Christ formed in me? In you? In the Old Testament, people had hope. They waited expectantly for the coming of a Messiah. A Savior. Jesus came. Now, not only His humble birth, but His life also gives me hope. His overcoming suffering—death on a cross—gives hope of resurrection. His conquering sin gives hope of forgiveness and redemption.

Now with Advent we are reminded by Jesus’ birth to prepare for the second coming of Christ and our own eternal salvation.

How do I prepare and not just hope I get to heaven?

To answer this, I have to talk about my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law turned 90 this past July. She does what she can to get to daily Mass, and she hates to miss. Often when friends see Mom at church and ask how she’s doing, she’ll say, “Oh, honey, I’m all right.

...I’m cramming for the final exam!”

Are you cramming for finals? Sometimes last minute works.  It worked for Dismas the “remember me when you come into your Kingdom guy” on the other side of Jesus on the cross. But it didn’t work for the other guy.  He bombed.  Didn’t even study.  But no one likes a pop quiz.  Are you preparing?  We know not when the time is coming.

What a beautiful thing hope is. The light in the darkness. The parachute opening. The phoenix rising out of ashes. The hope of resurrection. Redemption. The hope of salvation. The hope to get to heaven.

This Advent let’s prepare for the finals by welcoming God’s invitation to share in His trust, His unfailing love. To not bank solely on hope, but through our actions of prayer, forgiveness, and charity. To allow us to be formed, as He was in the womb, and allow Christ’s love to form in us.

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