I have been watching a neon sign in Richmond counting down the days to the Year 2000. Each week I ponder what exactly is indicated by the sign, beyond the mere changing of a date on a calendar in the Western World. What is this a symbol of? hope? renewal? the arrival of the future? I have come to the conclusion that the sign is meant to be a picture of hope: it looks forward to all that a new Millennium seems to offer: a new era, a new beginning, an open future. But the hope itself is an empty one. There is no guarantee of betterment simply by changing numbers. We cannot be sure that come the new year, we will not slip back into the old ways, just as we have done following every previous New Year's resolution. We may well wake on January lst to find that the sun seems to shine in the same way, the pattern of life is still familiar, and there hasn't been a magic wand waved over all creation.
We seem to be a community filled with anticipation, yet unsure of its fulfillment. Countdown to the Olympics next year seems to be increasingly tainted, as each new revelation further squashes the Olympic ideal. We may indeed find joy in the celebration of the Olympics, but will quickly find ourselves back among the usual mire of life, struggling with its realities.
Is hope of any value? Is it merely an anaesthetic which dulls us to daily realities for a time, promising to deliver us from them, but ultimately dumping us deeper in them, and more skeptical about committing ourselves in future? Whether it be the celebration of the Year 2000, the Olympics, a birthday, or a significant achievement, the aftermath always leaves us a little empty, still facing the same realities as before. What is this thing we call hope?
For the christian, hope is not something we value in and of itself. Hope indeed gives us a picture of the future, but for the christian, it is a specific picture: a hope of a coming kingdom, a hope for peace, mercy and justice, a hope for the return of Jesus to fulfill all the promises of God's eternal being.
This looking forward to the year 2000 is a signal of a search for hope. Not hope of itself, it is but a seed, seeking a picture of what there might be ahead. In the Gospel of Christ, we are given a very vivid picture of hope: this is something worth celebrating - EVERY DAY, for who knows the hour of its fulfillment?
December 5, 1999
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