The Season of Hope
With the arrival of winter, just on the heels of autumn, comes an aromatic fragrance of hope. Hope fills the air of bone-weary people who are looking forward to a time of rest and rejuvenation with friends and family, as an escape from the busyness of demanding schedules. Hope wafts through poverty-stricken neighborhoods of single parents whose greatest dream is to see their children thrive and reach their full God-given potential in a world where their potential is often stifled and truncated. In the streets and barrios of middle-class America, where inequities and injustices rear their unwelcoming faces, there is an unwavering hope for justice, a lingering hope that primarily people of color are seeking, and when found, will hold it in a clinched fist, with the hope of not letting it go.
The anticipation of hope is as prevalent today as it was in 1899 when James Weldon Johnson penned the poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This poem-turned song, the National Anthem for Black America, a beacon of hope for which we proudly stand, is at once an invitation to cry out in unison and fierce determination until liberty is achieved. It is an invitation for marginalized people of color to hope without ceasing and to rejoice in anticipation of the pending year of jubilee, where all the debts of injustices are cancelled. It is an invitation to march unfailingly until victory is won.
This song is an invitation to hope. The words inspire hope. Within the first stanza, there is an invitation to sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us. It is a song of a spiritually and deeply faith-filled people, whose reliance on the God of hope enables them to believe that there is something greater on the horizon. For a people who have experienced injustice and inequities, this sense of hope in the present is the fulfillment of faith. In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews says,” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (11:1, New Revised Standard Version) Hope then becomes the catalyst by which our faith in God takes on a new shape and gives us strength even when it seems that there is little to hope for.
Within the second stanza, Johnson writes these words: stony the road we trod, bitter the chast’ning rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had died. This claim is powerful. To suggest that hope is unborn, unrealized, and has died could easily derail our faith. However, because our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness, then we are able to see the birth of hope in the assurance of what we know God will do. Hope is within reach. Hope is available. Hope is an integral part of our Christian faith and it is a reminder that our ancestors, those who toiled and tread in places that are unimaginable, knew that their efforts would produce the kind of hope that the present has brought us. Hope in the form of access to resources. Hope in the privilege to use our voices in the right to vote. Hope in seeing people of color in decision-making positions in major companies, corporations, government and educational institutions.
It is the audacity to hope that as Christians everywhere prepare to celebrate the arrival of the Christ child – whose very birth is the assurance and evidence of the hoped-for Messiah, that we are closer to dismantling and removing the barriers that stand in opposition to hope. This season is all about the birth of hope that this world so desperately needs. Hope is our motivation to keep pressing forth. Hope is the prescription for the days when we feel like giving up and giving in. Hope is the metronome that steadies us and keeps us in rhythm when we are fraught with the predictable challenges that are sure to come our way.
This season, let our hope be renewed and restored. Our ancestors are cheering us on, and the generations that will come after us are counting on it and hoping for it.
~Yvette R. Blair-Lavallais * copyright 2017