[R.C.] – Prisoners of Hope

This season I am blogging through Advent in a series called “Resurrecting Christmas”. I hope to find something new and fresh in the midst of this season. I hope you join me.

Well, everyone, here we are. Christmas is a week away. As much as it saddens me to say so, this Advent season has truly been a time of darkness.


I wrote in my first post that Advent is the time of the Christian year that we allow our darkness to creep in, that we take this time to examine our darkness, even enter into it, and create space for God to enter in and be incarnate. This is something I tried to do in my last post myself by telling a story that hurts my heart a lot to tell, because it reveals my doubts and my insecurities about God and my own future.

What I didn’t anticipate, and no-one could have, is that we as an American society would be repeatedly confronted with our darkness collectively during this time.

Advent began in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. We were confronted with the fact that there are elements of the world that are out of our control, and that can threaten to destroy our way of life.

And this last week saw the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. There’s nothing quite like the death of children to truly confront us with the brokenness of our world.

This combination of events, a natural disaster and the most vile human act of depravity, make it very easy to not believe in God.

I read the following comment on Facebook on a person’s status: “Where was jesus for these kids who are now dead? If religion was real why does “god” let fucking children get shot? You can hate me for life for that comment… Just my opinion right now.”

I think this well encapsulates the feeling of a lot of people right now. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt this way at times.

Advent truly marks the time in which it is hardest to believe. It reaches back into history to a time when it was even harder to believe that God’s promises were true, or whether God was ever there.

I don’t have a neat theological answer for this. I don’t think the Bible does either. Sometimes I wish it did. But if we’re all being honest, the Bible doesn’t have nice, tidy answers for many things. The Bible simply and profoundly bears witness to the God who has promised that darkness is not the end of the story.

I can’t answer why God let this happen. I’ve taken classes and read endless books on the topic, and I certainly have theories that make sense to me. But at the end of the day, God isn’t wrapped up in my theology. The only thing God is confined to are the promises that God has made, simply because our God is that kind of God.

This past Sunday at church, my pastor used ta phrase that comes from the book of Zechariah, 9:12. The verse reads: “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.”

I think the phrase “prisoners of hope” speaks into the posture of Advent. The hope that we have is a wild, crazy hope. It doesn’t make much sense. In a world where hurricanes destroy and people kill children, “hope” isn’t a word that comes easily off the lips. Yet is a word we are forever bound unto as people who believe in a God who makes and keeps promises.

In this way, we are prisoners of hope. We must have hope even when it seems impossible; even if that hope is minuscule, like the light of a single Advent candle in a dark sanctuary.

May we not minimize the darkness of our world. May we remember that it is into such darkness that the God of Christmas enters and makes all things new, and will “restore to you double”.

I leave you with the lyrics of an Advent song (not a “Christmas” song.) This song has become for me a way of working out vocally what it means to live in the darkness of Advent and yet still be a prisoner of the hope that Christmas is coming. I hope it may be the same for you.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


One thought on “[R.C.] – Prisoners of Hope

  1. So much of our faith hangs on a single peg, and you know what that peg is as well as I: “We believe in the resurrection….And the life everlasting.” God raised Jesus, and we, too, shall rise to eternal life. Only that reminder from a friend brought me through a crisis of faith following the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, when I found it very difficult to sing songs of praise to a God who seemed more like a god, and A.W.O.L. at that. If our faith has no future tense, it cannot help us through the present crisis.

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