Caring friends who walked with me after losing my boyfriend in a jeep accident kept telling me to hold on to hope. “Your loneliness will not be forever,” they would say. The thing about hope, though, is it gets harder to hold on to as the years go by with nothing but God’s deafening silence humming in your ears. And yet, we are told to wait patiently; there will be a new song of praise. My song came 11 years later when, at age 43, God heard the cry of my lonely heart and led me down the aisle. Psalm 40 was the Scripture woven throughout the wedding ceremony.
Eleven years, though, is nothing compared to God’s children who had waited longer than that for God to answer them. Scholars say about 400 years had gone by from the last words spoken from the prophet Micah to the cry in the wilderness from John the Baptist announcing the kingdom of God has come near. I wonder, “How did they hold on to hope?” We don’t know. Those 400 years are silent ones in our Scriptures.
But there is another group of God’s children who have also been waiting 400 years and not waiting silently anymore. Their stories of “hoping against all hope” are being told and are begging to be heard. They are the stories of African Americans still longing for freedom and justice to prevail. They are the stories of those whose patient waiting has rightly turned into righteous anger and the call for action.
This season, I would love to rejoice in the wilderness with John who says to repent, the wait is over. Truth is, we haven’t repented; and we are still waiting for the steps of all of God’s children to be made secure. This Advent, if we must still wait, then I pray we do so together. I pray we light the candles of hope that Howard Thurman speaks of: hope heard in the words we speak, hope seen in the actions we take, and hope shining in the love we share abundantly and without prejudice. May our hearts hold on to hope.
Great and loving God, I am not good at patiently waiting. I need to know you are here with me. I need to know that all will be well. And, I need strength — strength to fight the good fight. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Explore the many racial justice resources that are available for you and your congregation at pcusa.org/racial-justice-resources