Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent: Contentment vs. Hope

Over the last several days, I've been slowly chewing on those two verses about the hope that Mary & Joseph had as they waited for this mysterious Messiah to be born. I've read those passages so many times throughout a life of growing up in the church that it feels as though the shine has started to rub off a bit. But for some reason, this week I continued to be struck by the way their Hope was placed in something beyond themselves, beyond their own comfort.

I tried to sit back and reflect on the things that I hope for. Over the last few years, they have been pretty basic:
I really, really hope I can make it this next hour without wanting to puke; I really, really hope I have what it takes to survive labor; I really, really hope I can sleep for 3hrs straight... 5hrs straight... 8hrs straight; I really, really hope we can buy a house & move out of this tiny apartment; and I really, really hope I can go back to work and not feel so stuck at home. Seriously, I think that just about covers the scope of all my aspirations over the last 2yrs.

And now, as strange as it is to say, all those things have happened, and I'm kind of left with nothing to hope for. That's not to say that we aren't super busy, that our house isn't always a mess, that we don't desperately need more funding, or that I've got any part of my life together. But, really when I think about it, things are pretty well lined up for us. And since my hopes have been rather small lately-- and rather self-focused-- I have had the strange privilege of seeing them come to fruition, and am now sitting around & looking at what I have in front of me, without lifting my eyes to what is ahead.

Now, in one sense, that is a very good thing. Contentment with our lives, our current situation, our possessions is (I believe) a key to living life well. We shouldn't always be aching for the next thing, forgetting about what we already have.

But on the other hand, we
should always be aching for what is ahead. I should be discontent with our world, injustice, pain, suffering, and my own brokenness. I should be constantly looking ahead with a Hope for what could be.

And there's the tension: Hope and Contentment. How do we center ourselves now, and ache for the good things we do not yet have?

Tomorrow's Advent verses point to those questions a bit.

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