Friday, November 27, 2009

The Light of Hope

Reflections on the Readings

First Sunday of Advent - November 29, 2009 Year C

By Dennis Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

..Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ... (Titus 2:13)

The Advent wreath is in place.  Three purple candles and one rose colored candle stand erect and stately, as if paying homage to the white candle in their midst.  Their enduring message of hope, peace, joy, and love, inspire us to be vigilant and expectant.  They glow with a patience seemingly wanting to remind us that the joy of Christmas will come in the fulness of time, and not a day sooner.  So will the end of the age. 

So how do we conduct ourselves as we contemplate the reason for this season?  Perhaps the question from today's readings would be how do we approach the meaning of time in general?  That is, what manner of persons ought we to be when the powers of heaven are shaken and nations are in distress and men's hearts faint with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world (see Luke 21:26)?

Let's review again what is meant by signs in the sun and moon and stars, the roaring of the sea and waves. These are not literal events just as we know that the presence of the Lord does not literally cause the mountains to melt and the valleys to cleft (see Micah 4). What does happen is that nations foment like a roaring sea with its waves.  And the Lord will judge the nations and uncover their godless foundations.  Such is the poetic and prophetic language of holy writ.  

We use similar language, don't we?  For example, we might say, "One day this nation is going to stand before God, naked and bare."  Does that mean one day every body within the boundaries of this country are going to become immediately disrobed in the twinkling of an eye and at the last trumpet? You laugh! Why?  Because in this context we should not press the words naked and bare to be taken literally.  What we should think is that we will not be able to hide anything from our all-knowing Father.  

I do not mean to imply that the prophetic language of scripture is not important.  Just the opposite. It is so important that we need to get it right rather than wrong.  To get it right is to know how we are to approach the meaning of time in general; the meaning of Advent in particular.

What will dissolve hope in our hearts is careless living.  Jesus called it 'hearts weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness' (Luke 21:31 RSV).  We must be diligent and watchful so that the enticements of this world do not crowd out the hope, the blessed hope we have of standing before the Son of man, with strength and integrity.  

When the pagan Roman armies destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem about A.D. 70, it was a day of darkness, a day of foreboding fear.  The end of the age of the Old Covenant was over.  For the community Luke addresses they had the hope of the New Covenant to carry them through and into all the world.  Today, in our own country, great darkness is engulfing us like an insatiable dark hole waiting to devour us.  This darkness is encroaching upon our religious liberties, and the true meaning of marriage, as well as the most fragile and vulnerable among us.  How do we approach such times?  With hope!  We of all people must not allow ourselves to become weighed down with the cares of this life, to become hopeless.  

Advent begins just as the days are getting shorter and colder.  It is just as this occurs that we are called to be watchful, engaged, and in prayer.  We want to wake up every day during Advent ready to let the light of hope radiate from our lives, our words, our face. Such light is important when the darkness would want to diminish all hope.  If we let the light of hope shine from us, it will be as if the sun is shining brighter and longer.  

The critters of the darkness scatter whenever a light is turned on.  Likewise the enemy's of hope cannot long endure the patiently glowing light of hope.  Let your face glow with the message of what is our blessed hope...the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you give us the unfailing light of hope, even Jesus our Savior who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. 

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