Advent 1 – Words of hope

The dawn of the new church year starts with Advent.   Advent starts with hope.
It’s the right way to begin, because all good possibilities in life start with hope.
Their gestation may be carried in pain,
but the possibilities and the new beginnings start with hope.

In the midst of cloudy times and the loss of a homeland,  Jeremiah proclaims hope

Now to be honest Jeremiah isn’t a prophet well known for positivity
and the words are spoken while Jerusalem is under siege
but still he gives a promise from God –
there will be something new, and it will be justice in the land

On the day that MLK was shot -in fact only about 3 hours after his death,
Robert Kennedy spoke to a rally in Indianapolis.
To a group of people who were devastated at the assassination,
and ready to riot, Robert said

“What we need is not hatred.   What we need is not violence and lawlessness
but love and wisdom and compassion toward one another.
A feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our community.”

Great words – but not just words
That night riots broke out in more than 100 cities.
But not in Indianapolis.  Not one.
Because hope is more than a word.

There are some great words of hope
in the stories of people nominated for the young human rights awards this year:
The  Young Australian of the Year Drisana Levitzke-Gray,
is the fifth generation of Deaf women in her family.
Growing up in a deaf community and being exposed to Auslan from birth has meant
that she has always been acutely aware
of her rights and the inequalities facing her community

It has inspired her to become an ardent champion of her first language.

“Currently, the stigma in the medical field is that if a Deaf child learns Auslan,
they will never be able to speak
and they will not grow up to be successful and independent

Drisana first took action against the inequalities
facing the Deaf community in high-school,

recalling an incident where she was forced to demand captioning
on a program her teacher was showing to the class.

“There was a problem that needed to be solved,
it wasn’t about the people involved at all…

it was about the lack of accessibility
and my right to access information equally to everybody else

“Since then” she says,
“I guess, I have been on a crusade to right every wrong in this world

that myself and the Deaf community face.”

That’s the action of hope

Or there is Adam Schwartz,
who found himself becoming a spokesperson for mental illness
after battling depression and being personally affected by the stigma surrounding it. 

Adam commented “The doctors had always said ‘you’re not alone, everyone out there is suffering’. So he  thought ‘well if everyone is suffering, where are they?’”. 

Following his recovery and after volunteering at a mental health organisation,
Adam resolved that he had a responsibility to give back.
This led him to write his self-published book, ‘mum, i wish i was dead’.

“For me, it was always if one life is affected, then it was worth everything,” says Adam,
“everyone has the right to feel good, to wake up and be happy”.

That’s the action of hope

When people are here collecting Christmas hampers and gifts in a couple of weeks time
there is more that is being provided that food and toys.
It is a community which is speaking actions of defiant hope.

Because we do not believe that a person’s right to joy and celebration
should depend on their income levels

And we do not believe that a parent’s opportunity to share with generosity
should be marred by mental health or the loss of employment

And we do not believe that a child’s opportunity to experience wonder and excitement
should be held back by their parents’ relationship breakdown

That’s the action of hope

In the book, movie and musical The Secret Garden  two children Dickon and Mary
are exploring a wonderful hidden garden.
It seems to Mary that the branches of the trees and bushes are dead.
Over and over again they are described as “gray”.

But Dickon knows something else.
He takes his pocket knife and cuts into one of the branches.
Inside, there is a sign of promise, a sign of hope.
Inside he finds a shoot which was brownish green, instead of hard dry gray.

That’s the sign that hope is real.

There are stories within you and stories around you
that demonstrate that hope is not just a word.

Hope is never cheap.
It takes energy, because it requires us to see something that isn’t yet obvious
It takes imagination.   It takes determination.

But whether it is with the inspiration of Jeremiah
or Robert Kennedy, or Drisana, or Adam, or Dickon or Mary
we are called to see hope, speak hope, hear hope and live hope.

It is not just a word.
It is a living reality



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