Hope is the conviction that in the end all shall be well.
Hope, then, requires that all that makes for not-yet-well, not abstractly ‘out there’ in the world, but in you, in me, must be consumed.
Moses first encounters God in the wilderness, calling to him from a burning bush. Trees in the semi-arid wilderness have a high oil content in their leaves, and can get hot enough to spontaneously combust, burning out over a long time. But this tree is not harmed.
Whenever we come across a tree in the Scriptures, it stands for a person or people. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil planted by God in the Garden of Eden stands for God’s people; the Tree of Life, for God (I proposed, last Advent, that we should understand this story as concerning God’s people planted in exile in Babylon, and God there with them). The roots of these two trees, planted side-by-side, entwine, such that they cannot be pulled apart: for, in Jesus, God has come into the world, fully-God and fully-human.
Moses encounters God as he stands before a tree in the wilderness, a tree that stands for the people of God, a people taken by God for his own possession, to be his home, as a dove might roost in the branches of an olive tree. Within this tree, in its growth rings laid down year on year, in the sap that rises each spring, is the totality of the people of God, those who come before Moses and those who will come after, in chronological time, all represented in this Kairos moment.
As we stand before our God, lying in a cattle trough in a Bethlehem home, gazing upon his face, upon his glory, we catch alight, and burn, unharmed. And by this fire, all that is found in us that contributes to the not-yet-well of the world is consumed, until it is utterly consumed. A fire that will not go out until all the oil that fuels it is spent. And yet these halos of our sanctification do not burn a single hair of our heads: though you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned (Isaiah 43). We blaze, to the glory of God, and as lights in the darkness, as promise to the world that their darkness will be consumed until only light remains.
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