It can fire up passion, stir emotions, breathe optimism into the most dismal situation and even encourage the faint hearted to do the most extraordinary things.
What hope really does is remind us that the present is transient, and that the misery and the anxiety we undergo day in and day out is not meant to last forever. It's that silver lining we are expected to see but rarely notice or even bother. It's that light at the end of the tunnel we dismiss as fantasy or a joke but deep inside wish it wasn't so.
Hope, by its very nature, looks ahead at the future more positively. It is confident that the drudgery of our daily experiences, the tyranny of the ones that make us worry, the weaknesses that threaten to destroy everything we ever stood for, and the fear that paralyses us into inaction come with an expiry date.
It makes us see our world the way it is meant to be, and not in the way our worries want us to see.
Our world today is full of people with hope in their eyes and in their hearts -- hope for the economy to rebound, hope for jobs, hope for peace and security, hope for justice, hope for an equal society, hope for a dialogue with those who don't even listen...
In first century Palestine, for instance, hope was not just an idea but a person. The Jews hoped that the Messiah would come soon and rescue them from the yoke of imperial Rome. They hoped that the Messiah would turn them into an independent nation, make them masters of their own fate, and am sure, turn them into a power similar to Rome.
However, the Messiah did come but not as a king the world might recognise but as a baby whose frail humanity was wrapped in unseen divinity. Hope did not match expectation, and the loud cries of 'hosannas' were turned into the angrier chants of 'crucify him'. Hope still did not die. Easter happened three days later to breathe life into a dying world, and humanity got a chance to look beyond the dreary present.
Question is, do we miss out on what we hope for because it comes in a packaging we least expect?