Some years ago, shortly after i’d left law practice to try my hand as a full time singer songwriter, i had a conversation with an old friend, a thoroughly suburban fellow who understood the business of music. He was very encouraging, spoke favorably of my meager musical and lyrical abilities, and gave me reason to believe that, from purely economic angles, i could ‘survive’ as a musician. (While mildly curious in things Christian, he was not a man of belief.) His one concern, a sizable one, was that my songs were not edgy or raw enough, and that the view of life described in my songs was hardly recognizable to 20th century listeners. His critique was along these lines: “even when your words are honest, your chords always go somewhere nice. You need to darken things up a bit so that they feel more like the real world.” My sense was that he believed my songs to be sentimental, a bit (or a lot) out of touch with reality, stupidly innocent, embarrassingly naive.
In short, they contained too much hope, to which i plead guilty.
Last week, in a reading from the Old Testament, i came across an interesting phrase that made me recall that years-ago conversation. In chapter 9 of Zechariah, the enslaved people of God, a ragtag populace of idolators and ingrates, are being told that their years of exile are over and t they are returning to Israel. God, speaking through the prophet, bids them do so with these words:
“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope.”
“Prisoners of hope,” He calls them.
Regret, illusion, greed, the past — those i might describe as prison. But hope?
And yet, as i look over the past year, i find myself to be an inmate myself, a prisoner of hope.
Because of Christmas.
One could argue that to believe in the Christmas story — that God loved this broken world and gave Himself to it, by pouring Himself into the thimble of a human body, in order to “bring the whole ruined world” back to paradise — is to be captive to a calm certainty that, even amidst the darkness all around us, goodness is at work and, cliche though it might sound, “everything is going to be OK.”
Christmas takes us prisoner, makes us inescapably people of faith, hope, love.
And knowing that to be true, the angel would tell us, then and now, “Behold, I bring you good tidings fo great joy.”
And on this December 25th, that’s where i find myself; gratefully enclosed in a hope that will release me only when i reach the reality — Christ and heaven — to which it looks.
Gary continues to live with and inspire us with his hope, even as he deals with growing weakness and fatigue. We’ve had the recent gift of good days with him that included short walks outside, visits with friends, foodfoodfood and freedom from discomfort for Gary. We laugh like never before, even if we are quiet tired at times. Our next doctor appointment is on January 5, 2012.