Wednesday Word: Hope
Advent I – Hope
Advent has arrived, probably unnoticed by most of our society. While stores have been selling Christmas decorations for a month or two, and radio stations are beginning to slip Christmas music into their play lists, and cities are putting up holiday decorations and have had tree lighting ceremonies, the church calendar remains purple or blue and declares that we are in the season of Advent.
We are in the season of the already and not yet. It is the season of hopeful expectation. It is the season of learning to slow down in the midst of all the noise and activity. We prepare for the coming of Christ which has already happened in ancient Bethlehem. We prepare and hope for the future coming of Christ that has been promised. We try to find space to breathe when this time of year often takes our breath away.
Each Sunday of Advent has a theme attached to it which is usually attributed to one of the four virtues Jesus brings. When you are at church you can see a banner hanging from the Advent wreath naming the theme of the day; Advent I is Hope.
If you were at church this past Sunday you will recall that the gospel passage came from the apocalyptic portion of Luke (Chapter 21:5-38 if you're following along at home). “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations . . . When you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near . . . Be alert at all times . . .”
We only heard a portion of Chapter 21 on Sunday, but that portion, and all of the chapter, make it seem as if the end days are upon us. And in reading this chapter, we may hope to be removed from the trials and tribulations that are to come. We may hope to escape the devastating nature of those last days. We may hope that Jesus comes soon to clean up this mess. But that is less about hope and more of an escapist fantasy.
Are these the end times? As I've said more than once, it's always the end times for someone.
In the end times we hold to hope: hope for a better world; hope for things to come; hope for the kingdom of God to be revealed and fulfilled.
The kingdom of God has come near. This is not the time to hope for an escape or for our miraculous removal. Rather, this is the time to “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
In these end times of the already and not yet, remember that we have a role to play in the coming kingdom – that role is to continue in the fellowship, to persevere in resisting evil, to proclaim the Good News, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to strive for justice, to respect the dignity of every human being.
In other words, that role is to help instill hope.