Both of these readings seem a little dark in comparison to the blinking lights of Christmas that fight to get our attention. The church begins a new year not with Yule tide cheer but with nervous anticipation. We know what is coming but all we can do is hope that it comes sooner than later. It feels like we’ve been waiting nervously for a while now. And at times, I feel like one of those ancient Israelites who were beginning to feel like maybe God had forgotten them.
It’s hard to remember there’s hope when the world seems to only be filling up with more hopelessness. But both the prophet and our Christ, tells us that hope is always on the horizon. Despite what the world is doing today, God is doing something greater for tomorrow.
I’ve titled my Advent series “Between Today and Tomorrow” to keep our focus on what God is doing in this space. And what God is doing right now is giving us hope for what’s to come later.
Hope is a familiar concept to most of us. By definition, it is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. For example, my kids hope they get the right answer when they guess at a multiple-choice question. Or you hope that when you submit a resume to a new job, they will look at it and even call you in for an interview. And who hasn’t made a Christmas wish list and not hoped to get everything on it? Hope is applicable in nearly every aspect of life.
While it’s never certain when that thing we hope for will happen, we are sure that there will be a time of waiting. Hope and waiting go hand-in-hand. We wait for the test to be graded. We wait for the company to call us back. And during Advent, we wait with hope in our hearts for Christmas morning to come. We need hope to get us through the hard times.
The young prophet Jeremiah speaks to a group of people who seem to have lost all hope. He tells them something good is coming out of all their pain and suffering. God is moving. A savior is coming. Don’t give up hope. Still, there is a time of waiting for it to unfold.
And this is what Jesus tells his followers to do during that time of wait. He says, “Be ready by being on guard so that your heart does not get weighed down with foolishness, drunkenness, and the worries of life.” Jesus tells us not only to wait for God to act, but to act accordingly as if it’s going to be today.
Advent is a time of active waiting. A time to ready ourselves for the coming Christ. It is a time to step into Anamesa, that space between today and tomorrow, to bring hope to those who have none. It’s in this active waiting that we are called to live out our faith together.
As a new variant of COVID begins to spread, I‘ll admit I’m getting tired of waiting – waiting for a cure, or for enough people to get vaccinated. I’m tired of waiting to see what is going to happen next. I want life to go back to how it was before COVID and all the havoc it has caused.
In the midst of whatever chaos we are experiencing, Jesus tells us not to worry about it. He doesn’t want us to go back, but to keep moving forward in Anamesa. He’s calling us out in the world to be active in our faith, knowing God is acting faithfully too.
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Like Jeremiah tells God’s people, whose lives have been completely turned upside, whatever is going on in life, whatever is bringing you down or causing you grief and pain, whatever people might be inflicting on you, the days are surely coming, when the promise to God’s people will be fulfilled. And so Advent is a time to hope.
If we believe in our hearts what God says is true, then we can trust in God’s greatest revelation given on that first Christmas morning. By placing our hope in Christ, we can give of ourselves faithfully, as we wait for him to come again. We can wait with joyful expectation trusting in God and being with God today, knowing our future is already secure. The hope that Advent brings frees us to travel from today into tomorrow. It frees us to love and care for each other without fear or hesitation.
If we believe God’s promises are real, then we can use this time to fully participate in God’s eternal vision of peace by “executing justice and righteousness in the land.” We can live fully and faithfully today knowing God is moving with us towards a better tomorrow.
You see, Advent is a gift for each of us. A gift not based on what we’ve done, but on what God has done through Christ Jesus – the incarnate goodness and mercy of God’s love given to us. Jesus is our hope. He is the promise and the proof that God has never left us in the dark or ignored our cries. But has come to be with us, in the flesh, and suffered alongside us and celebrated with us.
In Christ, God has saved us, and continues to save us, until that day comes when no one needs to be rescued simply because all who have been saved by Christ choose to live Christ like doing his work alongside one another.
Benjamin E. Mays is often quoted as saying, “I have only just a minute. Only 60 seconds in it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it, but it’s up to me to use it. Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.”
As faithful followers of Christ Jesus, we are called into the space between today and tomorrow where real darkness exists, where real pain and suffering are happening in real time. It’s in this space we are called to shine the light of hope for others to see.
We are given this day to live in the eternal promise of tomorrow. We can choose to use our time playing church or being the church. We can either sit idly by and wait for Jesus to act. Or we can act in his holy name – participating in life together by living our life according to his word. The very word that gives us our hope.
Henri Nouwen reminds us that a, “Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us.”
Together we can live with courage in this world without surrendering to the powerful forces that constantly seduces us toward despair. Together we can proclaim the good news in the world that God is a God of love even when it looks as if hatred and division surround us. Together we offer hope to one another by living out the good news that God is a God of life even as the world gives us more death and destruction.
Together we can wait with hopeful hearts, nurturing what has already begun through Christ while expecting its fulfillment as a Christ-centered community. A people who come together in his holy name, sharing our joys and sorrows together as visible as gesture of hope.
So let us come together, to begin a new church year with new hearts – to live our lives in this day as if we are preparing for something greater to come tomorrow.
Because God’s promise is real, proven already in Christ Jesus, we can wait and participate together through the darkest of days. We know how the story of life ends and how it begins again.
Advent is a time to remember that Jesus is our hope, our joy, our love and our peace. He is light that that breaks through and overcomes the darkness of the world. And if you ask me, that alone is something worth waiting for.
Charles, Gary. Feasting on the Word: Advent Companion. Edited by David Barlett and Kimberly Bracken Long Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.
Keating, Thomas. Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit. (Lantern Books; 2007) pp. 71-73.
Nouwen, Henri. You Are The Beloved. San Francisco: Convergent Books, 2017.
Polter, Julie. A Whirlwind in a Fire. Sojourners. December 2018.
Roberie, Joshua. Relevent Magazine. Nov 17, 2015. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/when-god-leaves-you-waiting (accessed Nov 25, 2015).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”