Today is the Advent Sunday known as Hope Sunday. In a few days, we will be remembering the 1989 Montreal Massacre. Shortly after will be the one-year anniversary of the Newtown shootings. Perhaps as we begin Advent, it is good to pray for hope and for peace in our world. Many are devastated by the events around them. Here in the North, it is easy to forget where the homeless will sleep as temperatures drop. Safe in our own homes, the people suffering from the devastation in the Philippines seems surreal. In this busy holiday season, we can be so distracted by our to-do list that we forget to-be present to the real reason for this season. I am looking as I usually do this time of year to participate in a few Christmas miracles so that I can help to harvest hope for some people in dire need this season. Keep your eyes open for such opportunities.
Advent is to wait and to begin these four weeks we hope. I believe in hope, foolish though that may be to many. I know our world needs a good, heaping dose of hope. Many people feel hopeless at this time of year. Some cannot afford food, let alone fancy gifts. Some are discouraged at spending yet another Christmas by themselves. Others dread the closing of this year as it means work is also ending due to lay-offs and cutbacks.
In today’s readings we have reason to hope. Come to the mountain of the Lord so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths. Stop learning war and walk in the Light. I hunger for the Old Testament passages during Advent. Psalm 122 urges the people to go to the house of the Lord, to pray that peace be within you, and to seek the good of others for the sake of the Lord. We are urged in Romans 13 to awake from our slumber, to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, to live honourably, and to put on Christ. The Gospel of Matthew is also a call to keep awake as the Son of Man will appear at an unexpected hour.
There is a call to vigilance and hopeful anticipation, a heeding of keeping watch for the One who is Coming. During World Youth Day, Pope Francis advised the crowds to not be robbed of hope and to not rob others of hope, but rather to become bearers of hope. In Ann Voskamp’s new book on Advent, The Greatest Gift, the reflection for Day 1 says:
“The mattering part is never what isn’t. The mattering part is never the chopped off stump. It isn’t what dream has been cut down, what hope has been cut off, what part of the heart has been cut out. The tender mattering part is–you have a Tree.”
Out of the stump of Jesse will come the tree that will become the cross. The beautiful Babe that we await in these four week is born as an ultimate sign of hope–God becomes human, vulnerable, and touchable. God was there in Montreal and in Newtown. God is there in your personal pain and anguish. God vulnerable and present has the power to restore any hope you might have misplaced recently. Come, walk in the light, hunger for the Good News that is being delivered, spread hope, sprinkle joy, and seek good for others. Be diligent and awake. Now is the time to believe that whatever has happened to you, God can redeem.