In case you haven’t heard, Dana and Glenda’s baby boy, Luka, was born! There was a scare with Dana’s blood pressure, but all are healthy and safe now.
As for every family here, we are always excited to hear the news of expecting babies and we hope with the family for a safe delivery. Dana & Glenda are no longer hoping for a safe delivery...because it happened. Now, they’ve moved onto hoping for good sleep schedules and smooth feedings and extra wipes. But they are no longer hoping for a healthy delivery of Luka.
Hoping is about waiting. Waiting is about hoping.
Advent is a time of waiting, filled with hope, for the child to be born, Jesus, whom we know to be the Christ.
Today is our first Sunday in Advent. If you are not familiar with weird church words, let me tell you that Advent is the 4 weeks before Christmas. The technical definition of “advent” is “the arrival of a person, thing, or event;” thus, big-A Advent is the time in the church calendar where we celebrate the upcoming arrival of Jesus, the Christ. The “4 weeks” piece of it developed over centuries of various church practices. It is a time for us to prepare ourselves and reflect on the arrival of Jesus.
We are waiting. In our waiting, we are hoping.
The people of Israel needed hope.
This short section of Jeremiah comes from what a section of Jeremiah that is often referred to as the Book of Consolation or the Book of Comfort. When it was written, the people of Israel needed comfort. They were in exile from their home; they were pushed out of their country.
This was something that the prophet Jeremiah warned would happen because of the injustices that took place; and, ironically, Jeremiah was the one who spoke words of hope to the people when they were in their sorrow and darkness.
In line with this past week’s Progressive Pints discussion, Melinda Quivik writes, “The prophet is the one who holds out a vision for us to cling to especially when we cannot grasp the meaning. With these pronouncements, Jeremiah sets the tone for all that is to approach our ears in Advent, for we need to hear the warnings to "be alert" in the context of ultimate and sure promise.” (workingpreacher.org)
Jeremiah warned the people to be alert to all the ways the people were living opposite of God’s will and to be alert for hearing God’s words of hope. He let the people know that the land would be known as the “Lord is our righteousness.”
Righteousness means acting according to God’s will. Righteousness means the fulfillment of justice, according to God’s will. This righteousness, as Jeremiah declares, will come from David’s line, David’s family. King David is considered to be one of the great kings of Israel...not because he was perfect, though, because he certainly wasn’t.
It’s the beauty of Jesus coming from the line of David...that it is not a family tree of the perfectly behaved and most righteous. Like many of our family trees, there’s a few loose branches in it. Yet, this is the family line that Jesus comes from. This is the family line that teaches us about just action, forgiveness, and love. This is the family line that fulfills our hope.
Through the exile experience, the Israelites formed a new understanding of God’s covenant and commitment with them. For the Israelites, Jeremiah didn’t frame the hope and return of righteousness as revenge upon the Israelites captors. The hope was not in retaliation but in being restored to God’s righteousness, God’s way of living.
For Christians, we form a new understanding of God’s covenant and commitment through the person and work of Jesus. (First Sunday in Advent, New Proclamation year C 2000-2001) We are called to have compassion for all people who suffer, even those who suffer due to their own actions (or inaction). Will we let our new understanding of God’s covenant, through Jesus’ teachings, guide us so that we are a light in the midst of their darkness or will we smugly sit back and say “I told you so”? (Matthews)
In Advent we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the fulfillment of hope for a Savior for God’s people, leading us away from our tendencies toward selfishness, greed, and hatred.
The people of Israel needed hope. The people of today, us, need hope.
Hope keeps us looking forward. Even in exile, hope looks forward. Even in the midst of depression or sorrow, hope looks forward.
Hope allows for light, for good, to seep into the darkness. Even when the overall situation is scary or filled with sadness, there is room for hope. When a loved one is near death, you can hope for a painless and smooth release to the next life. If finances are especially tight, you can hope for a way to ease them, perhaps with a different job.
Hope encourages us to balance reality and imagination.
To balance reality and imagination, you have to acknowledge the realities of the current situation. The Israelites had to acknowledge the judgments against them for their injustices and accept where they were - in exile - in order to then realistically hope for a restored land.
Matthews points out that we “prefer to hear of grace and peace rather than judgment, of course, but if there is never judgment, why would anything we do, matter? The rightness and wrongness...of our choices give them moral weight, and cause our lives to matter even more. And our accumulated choices, the little ones as well as the big ones, shape our communities into [either] centers of greed and self-interest, or into radiant centers of hope and love and peace. (ucc.org)
Hope takes into account the current situation, with all the complexities of good and bad, and it looks toward ways of letting in more light. This is an all-hands-on-deck process. (Rest assured, Dana - and Glenda - did a lot to make sure little Luka was born safely...to bring that hope to reality.)
This season of Advent, of waiting for Jesus’ arrival, reflecting on our lives, and hoping for restoration of God’s ways, is not about what God will do in spite of us, but about what God will do through us. (pulpitfiction.com)
The challenge for today on our first Sunday in Advent is not how do we endure the waiting, but how do we participate in the waiting? How do we not rush through the sorrow and the judgments to get to the joy? How do we take part with hope in the Advent, the arrival, of Christ’s coming, God’s kingdom?
On the podcast Pulpit Fiction, they encouraged the listeners to think of how we can embody God’s creative image of restoration and reconciliation. Hope includes imagination. Despair can limit “our creative processes - hope inspires us.” (pulpitfiction) In hoping for something, you have to imagine something that has not yet come to be, and then you have to do your part in making it happen.
We have a lot of artists in this congregation (painters, potters, knitters, musicians, and much more) and so I know you understand the need for imaginative process.
How can we creatively imagine God’s kingdom on earth? How do you imagine the teachings of love and justice and hospitality coming to reality? Taking into account the realities of where we’re at today, what can you do as an individual, what can we do as a faith community, to help that happen?
Scripture: Jeremiah 33:14-16