By Rev. Gary D. Phillips | 2023-11-02 | 4 min read

My wife and I live at Lake Junaluska. We had owned our house for about ten years before we were able to make it our permanent residence. Each November through mid-January, as we came and went, we enjoyed the Christmas decorations, both on public grounds and private homes. Each time we arrived on the grounds, we were delighted by the 8-foot tall, bright red declaration of “JOY”.

It was our pleasure, as we settled into our forever home, to become involved in various projects as a part of the lake community. One of which was to help with the public site decorations. Further we determined that the lone JOY needed to be accompanied by the three other attributes of Advent: Hope, Peace, and Love. After seeking all the permissions and recruiting a lot of help the plan was established to add one a year for the next three years. We started in the spring of 2022. If you remember it was about that time that Russia invaded Ukraine. In light of that it seemed natural to start with Peace. So last November an 8-foot tall approximately 20-foot-long PEACE appeared in front of the old museum. It had a ten-foot-long lion and lamb peeking out from behind. The Peaceable Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.

This year we intended to add “Hope”. Because of a delays, in getting the pattern, in getting the wood, with the dream of adding something special that in the end was not possible and, in real life interruptions, the hope sign never quite got off the ground. When reporting that to the powers that be, my comment was, “This year there is no hope.” It was intended as a lighthearted way of putting the news out there. Everyone groaned. Then a few weeks after that officials in our government began to talk only about limiting assistance to Ukraine, and
Israel was attacked by Hamas terrorists. So much for peace, so much for hope.

Now, I’ve lived most of my life in the state of South Carolina where state motto is, “While I breathe, I hope.” Nothing in the motto explains where this hope comes from, or what sustains it, or what it exists to accomplish. It simply states that hope lives within me as long as I breathe. Certainly, there is a lot in the state’s history that would cause one to lose hope. Yet ‘hope springs eternal’, or at least in each individual as long as they live according to
the state.

For followers of Jesus Christ, for them that love the Lord, we know the source of our hope. Our hope is in the Lord. As scripture tells us, “Faith, Hope, and Love, the greatest of these is” …. Well, at least hope makes the big three. And as we sing, “My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus …”. This then is our source and the sustaining power behind the hope in our lives. This Jesus the Christ is the source of hope for our life and our living. And as for its purpose, its reason for existing within us? It isn’t about hoping to score the newest gadget for our birthday. Nor is it about hoping that good things happen because of the benevolence of the cosmos. It’s about something in us, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that causes us to work for the betterment that we think needs to come, the change we hope for. Hope is not a spectator sport. Hope is the energy that makes us work for, as we pray, “Thy Kingdom come … on earth, as it is [already] in heaven.”.

May it be, that as long as we have breath in our bodies that hope will be with us, and when breath has ceased, may that hope be fulfilled.

Gary D. Phillips
Retired Clergy, South Carolina Conference

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