Nov. 29, 2015.
First Advent and the countdown to Christmas is here already! It's funny to me, how every year this still seems surprising. While we are more than ready to see light in this season of darkness and hear of hope in a world of fear, we can't quite believe it. We can't quite get our heads around the idea that the loud, destructive powers of greed and war and injustice can ever be conquered by the fragile love represented by an ancient story of a refugee baby. I need this story every year to remind myself that hope is alive, that love is stronger than darkness, that God is in control.
Jeremiah33:14-16, Ps. 25:1-10, 1 Thess. 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
Jeremiah is gloomy and doomy. He was a prophet during the reign of 5 kings, ending with Zedekiah and the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. (Easy to remember that "Zed" is the last!) His nation is teetering on the brink of being overrun by Babylon. Zedekiah has Jeremiah incarcerated in his courtyard to shut him up, to stop his message from "demoralizing" the troops. Surprising then, that at exactly the point where things are darkest, Babylon is at the gates and Jeremiah is in prison, that Jeremiah speaks words of hope. He even buys land as a symbol that eventually the people will return.
It is a surprising place and time for hope to be expressed. It is surprising for Jeremiah to expresses hope, knowing that it is not for him, but for God's people somewhere in the future. The story he rejoices in is corporate, huge beyond the scope of him as an individual.
The Luke 21 passage is awful and necessary. It's kind of an antidote to the shallow glitz of Santa and seasonal partying. We read something like this every first Advent to come face to face with the need for hope, for a new world order, for God to intervene. This year, we read this passage with images of desperate refugees, of governments bogged down in logistics and pressured by fear, of job losses and worry. The need for hope isn't new, isn't surprising.
I have been surprised by some of the fears and negative attitudes toward refugees I've heard expressed in the media. Unfortunately, I've been even more surprised to hear these same fears and attitudes expressed by church people-even a few in my own church. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, we are all just human, but how can we hear God's word Sunday after Sunday and still be so fearful and slow to respond to desperate needs? Our congregation is responding well-generously preparing to sponsor refugees-but we still need education and help to overcome our fears and help the world around us to deal with fear too.
During the season of advent, God's people are called to face the darkness and name it like Jeremiah did. Then, like Jeremiah, we are to recall God's promises and act in hope even when that hope seems ridiculous. We may not see the full revelation of the promise in our lifetimes, but the bits of hope and fulfillment we do see are important.
That fragile love is surprisingly strong.
Question: Faced with bad news on the world front (and maybe personally as well) where do you find hope? How can that spark grow into a light that banishes the dark?