Christmas: Hope Shines Through desperation

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is set with the background of the island of Blue Dolphins , which lies in the Pacific, somewhere off the Hawaiian islands, there lived a tribe of Indigenous people, living peacefully organizing themselves into a society subsisting on the marine life. But even this little island of harmony was not spared of conquests and invasions. After a battle that wiped off many of the men and leaders of the tribe, the new leader began to explore the seas to search for another land – the land of the “white men”, near the California coast. A ship is sent for his entire tribe to join him near the coast of Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, one girl of twelve, Karana, jumps off the ship to get her younger brother who was left behind. All alone in the entire island, she bravely awaits the ship to return for many years.

The rest of Island of the Blue Dolphins recounts Karana’s struggle to survive on her own, using both the skills she learned growing up and new ones, such as making weapons and hunting, prohibited to girls in her culture.

At first, Karana vows revenge on the pack of wild dogs that killed her brother, and she takes out a half-dozen of its members. Finally, one of her arrows strikes her archnemesis, the gray-furred, yellow-eyed leader of the pack, a creature she believes was brought to the island by the otter hunters who killed her father. But when the moment comes to finish him off with a final shot, Karana can’t do it: “I stood on the rock with the bow pulled back and my hand would not let it go.” She brings the dog to the house she’s built and nurses him back to life. The dog, Rontu, one of the great literary canines, becomes her constant companion as she explores the island’s tidal caves in her canoe, fishes for abalone, and battles a giant “devilfish” (octopus).

Living alone on an island for decades is a situation that would test even the strongest people, and in her first months on the island, Karana is only able to survive because she clings to the hope of being rescued. One could understand this initial hope as a type of delusion, a refusal to accept her situation. Eventually, she begins to despair that she will ever escape the island, whether by rescue or her own devices. The delusion leads to desperation. However, she overcomes this despair by watching the blue dolphins that live on the sea around the island. They remind her that she can find joy and beauty even if she must live alone on Ghalas-at. This belief inspires her to do her best to survive, and to persevere despite her deep loneliness. In other words, she exchanges a delusional hope, with a very specific expectation, for a general hope that she can survive. Only in this way does she persevere.

One day, Karana sees white sails on the horizon and, lonely, decides the time has come to be with people again. She dresses in her finest clothing and waits on the beach with Rontu-Aru. The sailors are amazed, but kind to Karana, although, disapproving of her clothing, they make her a dress, which she dislikes but wears because she wishes to fit into her new life. She learns that the boat carrying her people sank shortly after leaving, killing everyone. As they sail away, Karana sits with Rontu-Aru and some of her birds, watching her home slowly disappear.

Granted, there is a storm all around us. When I look at the news I see desperation in every corner of the world; omicron is making travel and gatherings this to be difficult, the whole fears of Covid has caused the economies of every country to remain stagnant and depressed, unemployment looms ahead, friends or family are fighting with us. The struggle is real, many of us are desperately fighting loneliness, many are fighting for our lives, many are feeling depressed, there are storms and desperation every side we look and like Karana we don’t know if hope will ever come.

You see, 2,000 years ago on the first Christmas things looked pretty bleak too. The Jewish people were under Roman occupation. This is not the way things were supposed to be: God had said they would live freely and prosper in the land he had promised to their forefathers.

Worst yet, they had not heard from God in a long time — not one solitary miracle, not one angelic appearance and no mighty prophet thundering the word from the Lord. Just an apparent icy silence from Heaven.

Then one night when no one was expecting it the heavens lit up as a host of angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

In the middle of a dark chapter in the story of Israel, God was reminding his people that everything was right on schedule — his schedule. On that Christmas was God undoing our loneliness. Jesus Christ means hope—to the person out of work, to the struggling single mother, to the dying believer.

Hope has to do with trust and confidence. It is the resting of the human heart on God, with full trust that he will care for us and our salvation, and will give us the happiness he has promised. It is an eager expectation and anticipation of what is sure to come—an active, faith-infused waiting for God to fulfill that which He promised to fulfill.

Hope is a vital part of life. Hope drives and motivates us. It gives us the power to endure in hard times and to excel in good times. Without hope we die. This hope is rooted in both who God is and what God has done for us. He is the God, who seeks his wayward children and provides a way home. God demonstrated his love for us in spite of us. While we were still sinners, God sent Jesus to be our salvation.

Do you feel undeserving of God’s love? Do you feel you are beyond hope? In the Christmas season we celebrate not what we have done but what God has done for us. Our hope is not in ourselves. Real hope rests in God’s promises and in his amazing love for you and me. Can you look forward to celebrating Christmas with that hope?

Keeping hope alive is precisely what Christmas is all about. Christmas celebrates the birth of a child who became the symbol of hope through the ages to billions of people who were/are faced with economic and socio-political/cultural oppression. Many Christians clung to the belief that this child, crucified as an adult by the Roman occupying army in Judea, would return and establish a new global reality of peace on earth. That hope gets renewed for many around Christmas, every year.

Christmas celebrate the possibility of a different kind of world. A world of kindness, justice and peace. The Christmas lights at the darkest moments of the year are a testimony to our capacity to hope. Don’t let the light go out!!!

May God’s presence this Christmas bring you His comfort and surprise you with His hope and joy, wherever and whoever you are. Take heart this Christmas. Christmas is the birth of hope amidst years of despair. For a desert people. And for advanced ones too.

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