When Isaiah speaks of a bear and cow being neighbors and a baby sitting aside a viper (Is 11:1-9), what message is he sending for us in 2018?
At first look his examples symbolize peaceful coexistence. That which seems unlikely is now likely; direct opposites uniting as one.
The derivation of the word “peace” comes from the word “pact.” Isaiah envisions a world desirous of making covenants that create peaceful existence.
In our present age of bitter divisions, Isaiah is encouraging us to shake hands with those we tend to avoid. As a bear and cow enjoy neighborly peace together, so too, are we invited to practice wholesome neighborliness.
A second look at Isaiah’s message is even more heartening: to envision a future in which we coexist together just as his image of a bear and cow do and the hopefulness this inspires.
South Carolina’s state motto is Dum spira spero, “While I breathe, I hope.” It encourages us to breathe in hope’s inspiration, zestful powers and strength.
Hope is the heart of life’s greatest achievements. If we didn’t have hopeful inventors, progress wouldn’t exist. If it weren’t for musicians exploring new modes of music, much of the inspirational music we enjoy wouldn’t occur. If it weren’t for scholars, hopeful of uncovering exciting insights into God’s word, religion would be deprived of its infinite inspiration.
And we must wonder what life would be without hope of returning to God after this life.
Hope possesses power to conceive of new possibilities and to dream of a better world. Theologian Bernard Olivier tells us, “Hope gives us the assurance that the mystery of suffering will be solved, that it will all lead somewhere, that all problems will find adequate solution in a new earth ... wherein dwells justice. ... Truly hope is the mainstay of the Christian life on earth.”
The opposite of hope is despair. Despair takes away the very breath mentioned in the motto Dum spira spero. Dreams of a brighter future are dashed and zest is snuffed out, allowing dark clouds of disillusionment and depression to blot out a hopeful future.
Our faith teaches all things are possible with God. To enjoy the best of 2018 we need to join that faith with the motto, “While I breathe, I hope.” With God’s breath and its hopefulness filling us with zest, the new year will possess all we hoped it to be.