Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Approaching Christmas, hope seems futile. Efforts to combat climate change face indifference, but if countries don’t act to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, temperature levels will continue to rise with disastrous consequences for all people, especially the poor.
Progress on climate change, in alleviating poverty and hunger or reducing the impact of preventable diseases is made immeasurably more difficult by war. Yet there are ongoing armed conflicts in more than 32 countries, resulting in more than 10,000 preventable deaths every year, mainly civilians, particularly women and children.
Isaiah writes to an exiled people without hope. Yet this passage is suffused with hope, couched in beautiful poetic language, bold in its assertion that the time is coming when every human ill will be healed, not by a miracle, but through the activity of people Isaiah calls oaks of righteousness.
The commonplace birth of a child long ago began a journey which would change the world forever. But it is not heroes we need, for while Christ’s death and resurrection is the catalyst of hope, it is in the everyday lives of his followers that hope will blossom in the daily proclamation of the coming of the light which transforms everything.
At night when sleep will not come, I seek for signs of hope among the images of ignorance, bigotry, cruelty, and suffering flooding my memory, the ugly residue of every day. Darkness is overwhelming, and I am filled with anger and despair. What can I do?
Then a voice whispers, ‘My child, you try so hard, confident in your own abilities, but blind to the truth. My love is far stronger than evil and hatred, and ultimately that will be swept away by the grace that flows eternally, unseen through all creation.’
Humbly I pause, and the voice continues, ‘Relax, my child. Let go and see the tiny flowers of hope growing in the dirt, and then let me show you how to feed those flowers until they carpet the whole creation in the glorious truth of my transcendent love.’