Advent 1st Sunday: Year C [08DEC12] Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope
Readings: Psalm 20, 21 ◊ Isaiah 4:2-6 ◊ 1 Thess 4:13-18 ◊ Luke 21:5-19
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13)
The apostle Paul goes on to write about the resurrection of the dead and encourages the living believers that our hope in the resurrection includes being reunited with all believers who have died before us. Therefore, “we should not grieve like people who have no hope.”
For some reason, my spirit wrestles with these words. Paul is not telling his listeners not to grieve; he’s telling them (us) not to grieve like people with no hope. What does that mean? I think I understand, but the difference between what I perceive as hope-filled grieving and hopeless grieving might be somewhat blurry. I believe the point is to always have our eye on the end game, but our feet planted in the present. We have to be conscious and present to both worlds to be any good in either. This is what I tell myself I believe, for now.
The problem, as I see it, is that hope and faith are so nebulous, easily shaped and even malformed from person to person. Fortunately, we have been given a glimpse of our future and our hope. Christ himself dictates to John from the throne (Rev. 21:3-7) the glory of the new heaven and new earth when God will dwell with man for eternity and there will be no more tears or suffering. This is the most tangible version or our hope and it often gets lost in the tyranny of our days. The noises and exceedingly busy pace of life can easily distract our focus from our hope. When this happens, we’re easily misled and prone to react the same as people without hope. What is the solution? We should make the effort to un-busy our lives, intentionally moving in directions that will simplify our existence to the degree we will always be able to focus on our endgame, no matter how loud or frantic life may get.
Today I consider my waiting and recognize giving thanks that it has taught me to slow down and simplify. By simplifying my life in general, I have been able to focus on a future hope that Christ has promised me. I’m less distracted by the things that captivate people with no hope (money, power, possessions, and prestige), and more attracted to Christlike virtues and Jesus-described-kingdom living (The Sermon on the Mount; Matt. 5-7).
Today I reset my hope on these things: I wish to live more like the kingdom citizens Jesus spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount. When my hope starts to tarnish and lose shape, it is always good to have a point to model and reset from.
Grant us a wholesome life, revive our zeal and love, O Father Almighty, through Jesus Christ the Lord, who reigns with you for all time with the Holy Spirit.
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rest my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Correct our eyesight, we pray you Lord, with the gift of faith that as we see you in the baby of Bethlehem so may we see and hear you in those who speak your word, and so may we serve you by serving those in whose distress you are disguised. As at Christmas you came among us to love the unlovable, so teach us to love with the love by which we are loved by you. Amen. Let it be.