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Readers Write: Hope

December 19, 2019

We asked readers to submit brief reflections on words associated with Advent. Below are two responses on the word “hope.”

by Terri Sykes

This Advent, I am engulfed by emotions as I recall times spent eagerly awaiting the return of my husband.

In 20 years of marriage, I have been left behind more than six of them. My Marine is called away to stand watch, to defend and to pursue. He entrusts the care of his flock to me. Really, they are ours. And, while they outnumber me four to one, I feel alone. 

Within the burden of his absence, I carry the weight of his expectation and delegated responsibility. I eagerly await his return, but I am patiently watchful in his stead. I am vigilantly dutiful to care for those in my charge, continually considering not only my own desires for them but his aspirations and requirements.

He is near in my thoughts, influencing my course and guiding my movements. He is ever-present through me, and the work is ever ours. My hands are never idle, though, at moments, I resign to reflect… .

You are so far from me now, will you return? I hope you can.

In the silence, do you think of me? I hope you do.

In the chaos of life, have I served well in your stead? I hope I have. 

When you return, will you say “well done” with a kiss of admiration and longing? I hope you will. 

Then there, in the stillness, I am broken, and yet courage catches me. In hope, I remember we are never alone. 

A chaplain candidate, Terri Sykes is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.

by Beth Short

My church is right across the street from The Ohio State University, a major academic institution that takes pride in its large, successful sports program. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, it’s good form to keep your fingers crossed each weekend in the hope of a Buckeye victory. And it is always appropriate to return a “Go Bucks!” greeting.

And you don’t have to love sports to properly complete the phrase “O-H” with a cordial “I-O,” when passing a stranger, even on the other side of the country. I’ve even received a few “O-Hs” when traveling abroad while wearing a piece of clothing that names my alma mater.

These traditions are intended to symbolize the ongoing hope that Ohio State students and graduates have for the success of the sports teams as well as the whole institution.

In the nativity story, the shepherds represent hope. They are the first to hear about the birth of Jesus and spread word of this world-changing event. They worshipped the Christ Child with sheer joy and awe that someone like them—lowly shepherds at the bottom of the cultural heap—can participate fully in the radical love shared by our awesome God. The hope of a world turned upside down from the normal pecking order was beyond what many of them could even dream.

This kind of hope isn’t the kind of hobby hope and wishes demonstrated by sports fans. It’s a big, bold, beautiful kind of hope that accompanies something so grand it defies comprehension. God loves all of us—without exception.

It’s a hope that should be shared regularly, boldly and loudly with everyone. Maybe when we pass strangers, instead of sharing a “Go Bucks!” message, we should say, “You are loved.” When the response is “Tell me more,” we know we have a chance to share a blessed story of joy and hope. For those of us working to bring God’s kingdom of love and grace to those we encounter, the only responses that live up to the hope of Jesus are gratitude and alleluias!

Beth Short has attended University Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio since she was a student at Ohio State University. She is president of the Rochester-Genesee Region of the American Baptist Churches, USA.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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