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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hope: Reflections for Advent, Week 1

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” –Francis of Assisi

Hope creeps in through the darkness, often as just a flicker of light.  That’s the thing about light, though.  You only need a little of it to dispel the darkness, and as it burns longer it grows hotter and brighter.

Hope often comes in ways we do not expect.

Matthew 24:44, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (NIV).

I remember being somewhat frightened of this passage of Scripture, as a child.  I’m not a huge fan of surprises (good or bad), and it seemed terrifying that Jesus might enter the scene and find me unprepared.  But much like the Jewish people who waited expectantly for a warrior savior king, I missed the point.

Certainly Jesus came in the most unexpected of ways—the vulnerable, illegitimate baby of a teenage traveler; born into the world to the songs of angels fraternizing with the dregs of society and the stench of animals sharing their shelter because there was no place for him.  Are you kidding me?  Where is the hope in that?

But it’s just like God to do things this way.  God calls to God’s people, “Who will participate in the redemption of the world?  Who will join me in bringing the fulfillment of the covenant?”

II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (NIV).

I think we sometimes question God’s timing, God’s purpose, God’s people.  We accuse God of creating covenants that God does not seem to unilaterally satisfy.  We stand back and watch and wait, wondering how redemption will ever come, wondering if redemption will ever come.  Should we speculate about how many others God may have lovingly asked to take part in this plan?  The advent story?  The birth of the Christ child?  There is no way to know, but it’s clear that it took a willing participant (well, at least one) to bring Jesus into the world.  Ironic that it was someone so young, so common, so unlikely…

And yet, one whose hope was already in the Lord.

I probably can’t get Webster’s to back me up on this, but I would venture to say that the antonym for hope is fear.  And oh… there are so many things in this world of which to be afraid.  Undoubtedly, it would be easier to run and hide.  Unconventionally birthing salvation for a people who do not recognize your effort cannot possibly be painless.  Saying yes often hurts, and… well… it’s not too difficult to envision the dread that accompanies that kind of agony.

But, and catch this, because it’s important:   

Romans 13:11-12, 14, “Do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light… clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV).

Do this.  Say yes.  Let Jesus fill your body and clothe your body and be your body.  Bring redemption to the world that God wants to save.  You know the one—the terrifying, filled with people just like you and filled with people with whom you have nothing in common, assumption laden, suffering, fear filled, hope deprived world.

Psalm 111:4, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate” (NIV).

Be gracious and compassionate.

Jesus is the hope.

Be the hope.

Psalm 112:4-9, “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.  Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.  Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.  They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.  They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor” (NIV).

As God’s people, we can figure this one out.  It’s not hard to find people who need hope.  Just light one candle and open your eyes.


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