I see the photos yet it’s incomprehensible. I’m in Australia and Aleppo is so far away – geographically and politically. Working out how to respond is confusing with conflicting reports about who’s on the ground, about which organisations help, hinder, aid or obstruct. So many agendas. So many perspectives. So many questions. I sense a shared helplessness with those of us who sit in our comfortable lounge rooms viewing photos of children in fear and cities in rubble that fill our social media stream.
The images of the unimaginable bump up against other photos and articles. These ones are of the seemingly endless fall out from the US election. Protests and petitions against the results. Angst. Tears. Anger. As an observer of the world around me, I watch and wonder. Very little brings cause for cheer.
The world, it seems, is weary of itself.
Even Michelle Obama, the First Lady herself, is melancholic. Reported contrasting her husband’s administration with the effect of Trump’s unexpected election win, she tells Oprah, “Now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like”.
Not having hope.
As we read the news, we’re feeling what not having hope feels like.
As we see the photos of pain and war, we’re feeling what not having hope feels like.
As we consider the state of the world around us, we’re feeling what not having hope feels like.
Not having hope.
Perhaps because it’s Christmas soon, when I read the First Lady’s comments I couldn’t help but think of the words of my favourite carol.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
Regardless of which political solution promises peace in strife torn countries or which President is in power, it is only something else altogether that can be the enduring source and substance of our hope.
This hope does not ask us to shut our eyes to the pain around us, but enables us to lift our eyes to the promise of things to come.
This hope does not consider that we cast away our responsibility to better the world around us, but bids us to also remember the world which lays ahead.
This hope does not seek to humiliate us in the here and now, but invites us to humble ourselves in view of eternity.
In a world obsessed with the supremacy of the self, embracing this hope requires we fall on our knees in acknowledgment of the ultimate frailty of humankind and deference to the divine.
In a society so focused on the material, responding to this hope requires we hear the angel’s voices announcing the night that Christ was born.
We can and should work to alleviate suffering. We can and should be involved in the political processes available to us. Our involvements in these arenas though are not to find hope, but to bring it.
At this Christmas time, much of the world pauses to remember a baby, a saviour, found in a manger in Bethlehem.
His name was Jesus, and He was – and is – the Hope of the World.