Happy New Year!
You might think I am a little early, but this morning is the beginning of Advent and another church year.
Advent is a season of paradox, but our human experience and Lutheran theology is rooted in and filled with paradox. Advent, similar to our scriptures this morning, is a time of anticipation and waiting, but also awakening and preparing.
We are preparing for Christ to come and enter into our hearts, lives, and world. We are preparing for Christ to enter in as the baby born in the manger on Christmas morning AND the Second-Coming at the end of days.
We begin Advent with a focus on that Second-Coming.
Our text alludes to the unexpected hour, but most of our images are derived from the Revelation of John (aka Revelation). We know it is proceeded by continually increasing trials and tribulations, natural disasters, and evil human and non-human forces gaining power, authority, and control of the entire creation.
It is a time that I pray to never witness.
Yet, the Revelation of John is intended to be a book of hope.
Hope is our theme on this first Sunday in Advent.
Hope is the theme of the candle we lit.
Hope is intended to be the common theme throughout our scriptures.
Despite the disturbing images and horrific events foretold, the Revelation of John is in fact a book of hope. It reminds us that despite the revelation, we can be confident that at the end, evil will be defeated by God and God’s Kingdom will FINALLY be fulfilled.
Our Isaiah text foretells of a day not yet fulfilled, when war will cease to exist. A day when the weapons of war will be useless, destroyed, and recreated into tools of peace symbolized by those of agriculture.
This foretold future of a time when war will cease and it’s weapons repurposed for peaceful pursuits may seem a fairy tale in our world of increasing international tensions AND the United States having been in war for 18 years as of September 11, 2019. Those 18 years have been more than half of my life and almost continually during these years I have had a loved one, friend, or at least an acquaintance deployed to a combat-zone. I have had friends injured in combat, as well as those who experience combat-related post-traumatic stress and/or moral injury. It seems a fairy tale that one day war will cease to exist and it’s weapons transformed into plowshares.
And yet, we are called to cling to hope for a time without war, a time of peace, and the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. In fact, THAT is what we pray for each time we utter the Lord’s Prayer.
This hope can be a spark, a fuel to ignite the remaining candles and significance of Advent: Peace, Joy, and Love entering into our hearts, lives, and world.
May we cling to that spark of HOPE.
May we remain confident that at the end all evil will be destroyed by God.
May we not only cling to the hope that that day will come,
but may we anticipate it, await it, awaken to it, and prepare for it in HOPE.
May we, all humanity and the entire creation,
be spared from the foretold trials and tribulations,
natural disasters, and evil whether human or non-human alike.