When Isaiah speaks of a bear and cow being neighbors, and a baby sitting next to a viper (Is 11:1-9), what message is he sending for us in 2018?
At first glance, his examples symbolize peaceful coexistence. That which seems unlikely is now likely; direct opposites uniting as one.
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 we too are invited to practice wholesome neighborliness.
A second look at Isaiah’s message is even more heartening: to envision a future in which we coexist just as the prophet’s image of a bear and cow, a prospect that inspires hope.
South Carolina’s state motto is Dum spira spero, a Latin phrase that means “while I breathe, I hope.” The saying encourages us to breathe in hope’s inspiration, power 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 music we enjoy wouldn’t have been written. 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 the hope of returning to God after death.
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 are dashed and light is snuffed out, allowing dark clouds of disillusionment and depression to obscure a hopeful future.
Our faith teaches that 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, which infuses us with life and possibility, the new year will be filled with hope.