Oh Holy Night is my favorite Christmas Carol. It’s tune is so beautiful, and in many versions so powerful, summing up the meaning of Jesus’s birth. Just hearing “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder brings a new and glorious morn….” sends a zing up my spine. The way the lyrics and tune capture that feeling is amazing. What does “a thrill of hope” look like? I imagine people laughing, crying, praying, praising–each person, all at the same time. In a much different context, I once witnessed a thrill of hope.
December 2003, the news was all abuzz with the capture of Saddam Hussein. The war in Iraq had been going on since March, and this was an incredible turn events. It was something that almost didn’t seem possible, but what a relief. I watched some of the coverage, and then went on my merry way. Driving along, approaching a busy intersection, I hear cars honking, and traffic was crawling for some reason. I looked to see if there had been an accident, but couldn’t see anything. As I drove closer to the traffic light, I saw a man standing on the median holding a flag and a sign. I thought it was someone protesting the war, but as I approached, I saw an old Iraqi man. He was waving the flag of Iraq, and I can’t remember what was on his sign, but he was celebrating. He was jumping up and down, laughing, crying, cars were honking for him. As the cars drove by, some people stopped and shook his hand, which I did also. This man was thrilled. Truly thrilled, filled with joy, and relieved. An evil that he had to contend with, even from far away, was gone. There was the hope that others would be safe. A chance for change. It was one step towards the world becoming a better place. These few minutes showed me the thrill of hope. And the weary world rejoicing.
My husband came home from work that day, having covered this for a newspaper. He met the man, took his picture, and saw what I saw. He said this man was so happy, giddy even, and just didn’t know what emotion to feel, so he felt them all at once. And before he left, the old man grabbed him and kissed him on the cheek. He says it was great to see such a sight.
So what is a thrill of hope? It’s a start. We have hope that we will be saved, but we have to believe we are saved. For Christians, we will be celebrating the birth of our savior soon. An evil has been removed from our lives, and we have the capacity to really live (“till He appeared and the soul felt its worth”). We should be humbled and grateful. Those words sound so puny compared to how we should really feel. The world isn’t so weary now.