The Christmas festival is symbolized by light, a light shining in darkness and the coming of hope. The story of the coming of Christ is a vehicle of hope for us all to feed our spirits and our imaginations in dark times. We like the church throughout the world on this Advent Sunday, are waiting for the coming Christ again, because that is what Advent means—a coming. It is a time of preparation, waiting for Christ's coming. The preparation is a spiritual one like Lent . It used to be a time of fasting and praying and in some traditions it still is. It is a good time to be in church.
Prophets spoke of the future and had a way of seeing beyond the immediate-how we need people like that today! There had been a gap of 400 years since the people of Israel felt God had spoken. Can you imagine being that patient today! Someone was coming who would begin to build the upside down kingdom and restore values to society. Truth into a society that had lost its way. He would turn people back to God. Hope to the Hopeless! .
The prophets spoke of a specific messenger who would prepare for the coming of the Christ, a prophet who will deliver the people, and make the way straight. The story of the angel Gabriel coming to Zechariah speaks of preparation for such a deliverance through the birth of a baby, who will be that prophet, the forerunner of the Jewish Messiah. Hope given to an old man who is childless, who has spent years ministering to God’s people in the temple with devotion and patience-a good man.
How many of us have given up on hope? We have stopped praying for miracles, for healing both physical and emotional, for healing of broken painful relationships, for change. How many of us face seemingly difficult and hopeless situations at this Advent time? Situations that perhaps only you know of, and yet the message of God to us is one of hope whatever our situation.
Hope comes to us in unexpected ways, when we least expect it, in a dream, or in a moment of inspiration, through a friend, or even someone we dislike. God uses surprising people as a vehicle of hope. We may feel the presence of God suddenly, feel peace and strength and realize that God is with us in all things and especially in the difficulties we face.
There can be nothing better than to hear words of hope. An infertility broken. A diagnosis wrong. A wrong forgiven. A brokenness mended. New possibilities imagined. Hope of a better world, hope of peace between Muslim and Christian, in Gaza, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Africa. Hope born of years in prison. Of such things others have much to teach us (Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Barach Obama).
For many of us we need to feel the brush of angels wings and the whisper of hope this Advent, this waiting time. Today this message challenges us to live lives according to gospel values rather than those of the consumer capitalism that surrounds us. God given hope is not optimism, or sentimentality, based on ignorance or naivite. It is based quite simply in a trust in God. The God who brings light into darkness, and speaks to us.
We are waiting and making preparation for this coming!