November 28, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Isaiah 40:25-31
The first Sunday of Advent! Advent is a Latin word meaning an “arrival” and because it happens four weeks prior to Christmas, it is no wonder that Advent has come to be seen as a time of anticipation – a time of hope.
But hope is a commodity that is sometimes in very short supply these days. Our hopes have been built up and then shattered again and again. So the indicator on our spiritual dashboards reads dangerously low on the hope gauge. And hope is so critical! With all the hardships that confront us, we find ourselves wondering how to reinforce our spiritual tanks! You see, it isn’t just computer chips that are in short supply, it is more important resources like HOPE. Where can I get some of that?
We ought to be experts on such things. Hope doesn’t come from Door Dash or a Black Friday special. Few people even talk about it outside the church but it is an essential! We ought to know something because our favorite book mentions just the word hope (not counting the derivatives and variations) some 180 times!
I am no expert on keeping our supply of hope topped off. And, I am the first to admit that I can’t always seem to practice the art of living in hope, but I want to remind you of a few things this morning. Hopefully something I say this morning will trigger an idea or be a reminder of something you already know that will help you live a less anxious life and one with fewer moments in the doldrums of discouragement. We weren’t meant to live without hope! We aren’t designed for it by our creator!
There is this song that my church of the past used to sing often (by Daniel Gardner). The words are simple: “My life is in you, Lord, my strength is in you, Lord, My hope is in you. In you, it’s in you.”
I want to offer you just four suggestions this morning on this first Sunday of Advent where HOPE is the theme:
BREAK THE CYCLE
One of my biggest mistakes that seems to catch me up more than any other is that I can find myself (my mind and my heart) riveted to the thing that looks hopeless to me. It is like I am stuck to it and can’t pull myself loose. I think it is called obsessing over something. And the hook is that I am not aware that it is happening.
The conversation within my head goes on without interruption. I imagine what the situation will be like when it gets worse. I see the whole world slipping into an abyss. I focus on my feelings until they get more and more intense. This can happen with any number of feelings and not just hopelessness.
It’s like Jesus and the disciples on Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night, with a storm brewing. Peter asked to walk on the water like Jesus had done. The story goes: “When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out ‘Lord, save me.’” How can any storm be quieted until we who are in the boat can acknowledge that we are IN the storm and that it is about to overwhelm us?
We need to learn the simple art of awareness that we are in a non-productive spiral and need to break it with an acknowledgement of our situation and a quick cry for help! I believe this is an important first step toward resisting the descent into hopelessness. It is so much easier when we do it as soon as we can rather than let the fear and hopelessness overtake our spirits.
THINK LONG RANGE
I have to say I am speaking for myself here and can’t vouch for how these things work in your life, but another mistake that is so easy for me is to get caught thinking that the situation I find myself in – or I think the world is in – is unique (i.e. never happened before) and global and it is the WORST it has ever been.
I got to thinking that in the height of the COVID pandemic. It was basically unconscious, but until I heard the more reasoned minds saying: Yes, this is bad, but there was the 1918 flu epidemic where so many died, and how many epidemics of cholera, and the bubonic plague. This is not the first or only and it is not the worst thing that has ever happened to us.
When I think long range, I begin to put things in perspective and know that we as a human race have been here before, God has been here before, we are not the first or the last. And God whispers in our ear: “I’ve got this.”
THINK LIKE A FAMILY
The third thing I want to say this morning is this: We need to practice THINKING LIKE A FAMILY.
I need to say that these suggestions this morning are not exhaustive and I have no idea to what degree they may speak to you. I just offer them because they seem true to me and hopefully the Spirit can use it when your spirit is nearing its empty mark on hope.
Because hope is such a universal need, it seems to me that the remedy for a depletion of hope is also a universal responsibility. That is, we as a Beloved Community need to band together to bring new life to one another and to share hope with those whose supply is running low. WE CAN FIX THIS PROBLEM in the name and spirit of Jesus. (Ashley and Chris bringing us a thermometer.)
Sometimes we assume that because God is the source of hope, that God should fix everyone who lacks it. Don’t we understand that God set up a perfectly good system when God (who is love) created Beloved Community in part so that we can share out of our abundance and lift one another – carry each other’s burdens – until the clouds part and the sun breaks through again.
Jacinda Ardern is the prime minister of New Zealand and close to the beginning of this pandemic, she started a campaign all across that country where the theme was simply “BE KIND.”
Don’t you see the wisdom in that? We can solve so many of our problems if only we understand that the solution lies with the abundance of love and hope that we can share with one another.
God has blessed many of us with hope and love. We may not be able to change the pandemic, but we can share our hope and our love in Jesus name!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when we feel like we are in the pit of despair, we need to do whatever it takes to run home to our heavenly father/mother like we did when we were kids, crawl up into that lap of safety and consolation and wait till we hear the words: “My child, trust me. It will all be OK.”
Psalm 130:5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
How often has a loving parent said to us: “I know what you are going through. I can’t fix it, but I know that you can make it. You already have what it takes. Be strong – and I am with you always.”