This is Advent, the season of hope, but hope is not the same as optimism. Optimism needs some bit of good news to go on, to extrapolate from. Hope burns even in moments when nothing in the circumstances would suggest any reason for optimism.
Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, once spoke of Adam and Eve, and what he said surprised me. I thought I knew their story—they were the “first parents.” But Wiesel spun out the human story. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain murdered his brother, and for his crime was banished. His “curse” was to live as a man on the run. He ran away, Wiesel reminded his listeners, and never came back. So Adam and Eve lost their two sons to violence.
And what was their response? No one could have blamed Eve if, through her tears, she had said, “No more children. I can’t lose another child.” No one could have blamed Adam if he had turned dark and angry, if he had given up on the idea of a family.
Yet, Wiesel says, their response is to conceive another child. “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth” (Gen. 4:25).
Adam and Eve are great, Wiesel says, not because they were the “first parents,” but because when everything was taken away from them, they had the courage to hope again, to conceive new life.
That is hope. To love again after losing everything. To trust again, enough to create new life in a dangerous world. That is the hope we find in Advent, and it is not based on any circumstances. It finds its life in the faithfulness of God who promises that the darkness shall not overcome the light, and that out of death, life arises.