hope /hōp/
1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
synonyms:”aspirationdesirewishexpectationambitionaimgoalplandesigndreamdaydreampipe dream”   –   “I had high hopes”
2.  ARCHAIC – a feeling of trust
.It’s Advent and we had bishops and a variety of church leaders in the office today for lunch. Part of our conversation turned to the topic of “hope” as one leader related that one of her children just doesn’t seem to have any. The future looks bleak to this young adult child and they don’t know what to do.
As I reflect on this I realize that hope is not the same thing as optimism. Optimism means that we expect things to turn out okay. “I am optimistic that my time with family over Christmas will be positive.” for example. However, I am not very optimistic about how our earth will fair as we continue to deny climate change. I’m not very optimistic about the country’s future in light of the political realities of our country right now. You may feel differently, but fill in the blank. “If I’m honest I am worried about .  .  . and I don’t think this is going to turn out well.” I want to be optimistic in my life and I want to be honest. Sometimes I can’t do both. Sometimes, truth be told, I may not be able to do either.
And that is why I need hope!
Hope, for me, is a spiritual thing. If hope depends on me alone then it is just faux optimism. “I can do it . . . I can do it . . .”  That’s positive thinking and I’m okay with that. However, I can’t fix climate change. I can’t fix our political world. I can walk rather than drive, and I can be the change I want to see, but let’s be honest. When hope is just reconstituted optimism I find I am unable to maintain it. Then I become hope-less and that may be the beginning of the end.
Nope. Hope is expectation. Hope is trust. It is faith. Hope is a belief that there is a truth beyond my ability to see or imagine. Hope does not assume that my expectation or desire is going to be what happens. That would be optimism. What hope assumes is that there is more than my understanding and that life is going somewhere I have no map for.
Advent is all about this kind of hope. You may or may not be hopeful. I think hope is a gift and I will most certainly not malign you if  you aren’t a hopeful person. But don’t confuse hope with optimism. It is quite possible to be discouraged or distressed about life and still be hopeful.
Being hopeful can simply mean being at peace in the unknown. Being hopeful is an invitation to quiet down and listen to the unknown. Being hopeful means I know at some level that I am not alone and that I am neither in charge nor responsible for the whole weight of whatever imprisons me. Hope allows me to act when I can find no reason to think I’ll be successful.
Ultimately, hope returns me to me. It is a gift, a grace, a certainty in a future even if I have no confidence in “the” future.
“Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
So writes the Apostle Paul in Romans 8. I think I get that. Patience may not be pretty and waiting is not doing nothing, but hope is a gift I never find in anxiety and frustration.  So light a candle this evening. Breathe, trust, renew, hear – and then go fix it the best you can.
Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke