There is an old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”

It is a reminder that we may think we know what we want, but when it arrives it does so with a plethora of unexpected baggage and sometimes obligation and unwanted responsibility.

To rephrase it a bit, it is worth thinking about what we hope for. Because hope drives action and expectation. It is also important to think of hope as a sure thing rather than just wishful thinking. Christmas is here, and we celebrate the arrival of the hope of the nations. We have sung the songs.

We have remembered “The Reason for the Season” (a quip I do not care for that much). We have exchanged gifts and been to church (if possible in 2020). We have roasted chestnuts and collected our gift receipts for the great retuning on the first shopping day after Christmas.

Now what?

We have celebrated the arrival of hope. Not wishful thinking, but hope. Most years for most people not much changes because too many leave Jesus in the manger. Just as at Easter many just leave him on the cross. You know what I mean — we are thankful and all, but we really can’t be bothered by the implications of resurrection.

Hope and forgiveness are great, but living like we believe it... well. We know “the grace,” we can recite The Lord’s Prayer (and spread falsehoods about its acceptance on social media). But do we grab hold of the hope that is there — or do we find ourselves just too busy or “blessed” to care.

Hope is a powerful force for change. Just recall for a moment what happens in science fiction, comic book movies, or dystopian stories when the hero(es) show up. That is when the action starts. That is when the trouble starts. That is when people start to die. That is when the duplicity of the powerful is pressed out for all to see.

When the king showed up to offer hope to those who needed it the most, the trouble started. And it hasn’t let up since. Reading the conclusion of the message in Luke 2 where the angels are singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased to dwell,” and how the bringing of that peace concludes is worth considering for a few moments.

Hope was announced by one impossible birth (John the Baptist) and arrived by another (Jesus). Just as important is all the things that happened because that hope arrived: wise men brought gifts, shepherds went to pay their regards, a family had to flee to Egypt, infants were murdered at the behest of an enraged king, prophets spoke, a father struck dumb, righteous Simeon found what he was looking for and departed in peace.

And that hope caused trouble his entire life by doing good to those who were considered outsiders without regard to “the system.” Hope and destruction are set in sharp relief in an incident in Matthew 12:9-21. How would you like to be the man healed after which the authorities began to plot to destroy the one that healed you? Those men could see that their authority was being challenged — by hope of healing.

After the man is healed, Matthew draws from the book of consolation in Isaiah concerning God’s servant. A servant that just goes about his business quietly and without regard to what might be expected, “He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any hear his voice in the streets; he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory and in his name will the nations hope.” (Matthew 12:19-21, RSV).

Hope of this sort is unsettling to those who align with those who seek power for power’s sake. Hope of this sort is unsettling to those who believe they are the solution to what ails us. It takes away power from those who would have us be afraid. This hope calls us away from allowing media, politics and politicians, conspiracy theories, or heroes to set our agendas.

When we celebrate on Christmas the hope that arrived over two millennia ago, we cannot forget to allow it out of the manger to do its work — on us — on the world. When we put down our fear and hatred better leaders will rise. When we let go of our fears and allow that hope that is in us to guide our lives, wonderful things such as reconciliation, forgiveness, equality, and help for those who need it will happen — with or without our “leaders.” We celebrated the arrival of hope — live in it.

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