December 2, 2018 (1st Sunday of Advent)
(Jeremiah 33:14-16, Luke 21:25-36)
Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent! When I think of Advent, I tend to think “warm and fuzzy.” However, our scripture readings are anything but warm and fuzzy on this first Sunday of Advent. Jeremiah speaks to a people decimated by invasion and the loss of their city. Jesus speaks of trying times to come, using words like anguish, perplexity, fainting and terror. Yet, when we look deeper at what is going on in these texts, we do find reason for optimism. The community Jeremiah was speaking to, along with losing their land, had lost their faithful King (Josiah.) It appeared the line royal line of David was dead. Judah, once like a thriving, living tree bearing much fruit, was now more like a dead stump. But Jeremiah spoke of a righteous sprout which would spring from David’s line.
In our reading from Luke, Jesus spoke words that were disturbing; about calamity in the sky and on earth, a time when nations would be in anguish. Yet in the midst of these words Jesus also spoke of a fig tree and the fact that when a fig tree begins sprouting leaves, we know that summer and fruit bearing are near. This imagery offers encouragement for the future in the midst of uncertainty and loss.
On this first Sunday of Advent, what is the good word? That word is HOPE. Jeremiah offers hope to a people suffering great loss as they look back. Jesus offers hope to people as he talks of the future. Where are you in this story? Where have you suffered loss? What is the dead stump in your life? Loss of a loved one or relationship? Loss of employment or health? Does it seem there is no possibility of anything coming out of that seemingly lifeless stump? Often when we are in the midst of a situation, we have difficulty looking beyond it. The way forward can dissolve into panic over the immediate present. But in the midst of your situation, God offers new life and hope. As the picture above reminds us, new life can grow from an old stump (just as Jeremiah spoke of a new branch springing forth from the line of David, which likely seemed like a dead stump at the time.)
At the beginning of our time together this morning, our first Advent candle was lit. The first Advent candle is called the candle of hope; I remind you of the words read aloud this morning as the candle was lit: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness -- on them light has shined... For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:2, 6) On this first Sunday of Advent, let us be thankful for the gift which ours no matter what our circumstances may be. For unto us a child has been born, the embodiment of hope for our present and for our future. HOPE is the gift we celebrate on this first Sunday of Advent.