The Five Ironies of Hope

For the full 29 days you can go here. 

 5 Five Lessons from Advent:

1) Hope is as much about the past as the future.   Looking backward to the story of what has happened so far, and learning to do that well, is a a practice of keeping hope.  Hope isn’t always a surprise, especially where you know where to look.
2) Hope is not optimism.   Having hope doesn’t mean everything will go like we want to.  It means we are going to be ok and the story will keep moving forward even if it all falls apart.
3) Hope is not a choice. Hope for St Thomas Aquinas, an expert on the matter, is a virtue. This means it has practices that are required to develop it and sustain it. We are formed into it.
4) The first signs of hope arrive in the least likely.   The Shepherds for instance had the least amount of power and the least reasons to have hope in how the world was unfolding.  Un-showered poor people who spend most the day chasing not-so-smart animals are more audacious than so called movers and shakers.   Who are the shepherds of today?
5)  Hope is not about me.  That is to say, hope grows fasest when I realize I am part of a much larger story than my own.  There are shepherds in my life. There are misfits, lousy joiners and other homesick souls and I can do something to arouse hope in them.  I can care.
I think the practices of Advent help me to suspend some of my expectations so that I can receive new ones about what is really going on in the world.   And in my tradition it isn’t even sub-text.  It is text.


  • Kyla

    If hope is not equal to optimism, I’m wondering…what is hope? I see it as a longing for something to come, combined with the idea that seeing the longing come to fruition is actually possible.

    I’m not understanding how that is different from optimism, although I get the feeling you’re right!

    I was asking earlier this week, Should what we hope for and what we expect be the same thing? Realizing that hope is not about me helps me begin to answer my question. When I realize MY hopes are limited to my own thinking, but hope itself is bigger, the need for my hopes to be met becomes smaller and my own hope grows.

    Yet another thing in this world I don’t understand, but that I’m thankful for.

  • Doug Harrison

    Right on. I think optimism says it will all turn out well, but usually means in the short-sighted sense… “oh don’t worry about it, the test results will come back fine.” Hope says I will look to God and offer the results for God to make them well regardless of what they say.