Hold Hope: Advent Meditation, 12/14/2012

Psalm 1:1-3
December 14, 2012

Riparian forests are subject to frequent inundation.
Riparian forests help control sediment, reduce the damaging effects of flooding and aid in stabilizing stream banks.
Riparian zones are transition zones between an upland terrestrial environment and an aquatic environment. Organisms found in this zone are adapted to periodic flooding. Many not only tolerate it, but require it in order to maintain health and complete their lifestyles.
— M.C. Molles, Jr., Ecology: Concepts and Applications, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008) p. 291

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.
It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty
that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
— Vaclav Havel

In today’s reading, the psalmist uses a powerful metaphor, comparing the faithful to trees planted along a watercourse, to open one of the most beloved and comforting books in the Bible. Trees by water provide us with shelter and shade, a place to tie swings or tether canoes. Riparian forests can tell us volumes about the health of a watershed, and can provide stability to soil and shelter to animals during floods and droughts. They are still powerful indicators and analogies for us, 3,000 years after the psalmist drew us this lovely word-picture.

I think about all the people who lived before the first Advent, about all their faces and stories and hopes. I wonder if they saw themselves as riparian creatures, living by the banks of G-d’s mighty river of time and mercy; wonder if they knew all the fancy science lingo and theological musings they would stir up, wonder if they could even begin to understand what my life is like as a faithful person in 2012. I know that they hoped for deliverance from tyranny, for right relationship with each other, and for a deeper understanding of G-d, and for a Savior who would draw all those hopes together into one culminating hope and desire.

My guess is that, like most of us living in the second Advent, they looked at the coming of the Messiah with great hope and longing, and in those two powerful and almost-always related emotions, still managed to find a way to do the business of ordinary life – they ate, drank, slept, made babies, told stories, and worked really hard. But at the most profound level of everything, they held onto hope, foremost in their hearts and minds, because to live otherwise was not an option.

It’s easy to forget that roots take a long time to grow, that soil health is important, that trimming and pruning are essential to growth, that sap only runs at certain times of the year. We have to hold hope (that ancient and mystical hope of Moses and Ruth and Jeremiah and Mary) just like trees hold water in their roots and chlorophyll in their leaves, the very things that make life possible for a tree – it is necessary and vital for us to hold that hope, that urgency, that longing and deep desire to see Jesus, to see the world recreated and redeemed by the very definition of meekness and vulnerability, to see and be a part of reconciliation all day, every day.

Jesus is coming.

Jesus is here.