Service Times

10:00 AM


Church Calendar

A Welcoming Congregation


Standing on the Side of Love


Password Protected Directory


Volunteer Involvement Form

Thwarted Hope

On Monday night, I watched the long, painfully drawn-out announcement that there would be no indictment in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO this past August. It was something I’d come to expect even as I’d hoped against it, and six states away from the courthouse it still hurt. It may be that you were watching too, or following the story at least, and so were subject to the same aching wait that so many of us were over the last days and weeks and months as the grand jury process unfolded.

One of my colleagues described this time as a Strange Advent – referencing the season of Christmas’ anticipation which begins this Sunday. The observance of Advent is about the faithful expectation that hope will be renewed. The Christmas story is one of wondrous and surprising things happening in a dangerous and bitter context. Still, it plays out liturgically as a vigil of increasing optimism building towards a celebration that always arrives on time. Waiting for the Ferguson verdict meant waiting an unknowable number of days for a ruling that seemed more and more likely to dishearten and disappoint. And then the verdict came, and did just that.

But this modern pageant of woe – still in process and unresolved – shares some qualities with the Christmas narrative that we rarely consider. In the two Gospel stories of his birth, the teacher Jesus arrives in a land under occupation, where arbitrary death is a very real prospect. So real, in fact, that Jesus himself suffers it. And while the celebration of Easter affirms the ability of his students to continue to work in his name and endure his murder to continue his mission, the simple fact remains: at the end of the narrative of his life, Judea is just as violent and tormented a place as at its beginning. His people, many of whom seemed to hope he would be their liberator, remain just as oppressed as before.

The story of Hanukkah, which collides with Christmas mostly as an accident of the calendar, contains this same difficult truth: hope does not triumph in every instance, and victory does not always go to the most righteous or deserved. Also a story of Judea’s occupation by a foreign empire, Hanukkah is a story of liberation from oppression and the struggle for religious freedom, but it is not an uncomplicated one. The Maccabees, the heroes of the story, are hateful towards anyone outside their narrow faction and go on to establish a dynasty – the Hasmoneans – so universally despised that both Jewish and Christian religious authorities view it with almost equal disdain.

As a faith born of heresy, Unitarian Universalism ought to have a firm appreciation for the fact that the best idea does not always win in a dispute. That wars are won by power more than justice. That laws more often serve the mighty than the meek. That, “time is neutral,” as Martin Luther King wrote from his jail cell, and it, “…can be used either destructively or constructively.”

The arrival of the winter holidays can feel inexorable. Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa – each fall on their dates no matter what we do. But their meaning – the joy, renewal, and hope they represent – only arrives when and where human beings work at it. By telling the stories. By observing the rituals. By finding ways to make the ideals and aspirations of these holy times manifest by our actions. Part of life is waiting for things beyond your control to happen. Sometimes those things disappoint, and that disappointment might be minor, or it might be written in fire and blood. Hope can be thwarted. That doesn’t mean we stop hoping. It means we need to recommit to it again and again. The greatest wrong is not justice denied, it is justice so long in absence that all the yearning for it dies out. May we keep that yearning alive, then, friends. We will need it to drive us on, in the direction of new hope.


In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


Office Hours: Mon 8:00 - 11:00 am & Tue-Fri 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Site maintained by webmaster Amy Carlin