December 3, 2017

Advent 1

ISAIAH 64:1-9; PSALM 80:1-7, 16-18; 1 CORINTHIANS 1::3-9; MARK 13:24-37



I pray that your hope will be easily found.

We lit this morning the first candle of Advent, and we call it the Prophet’s Candle.  The candle’s flame is a symbol and the voice of the prophet a beckoner of the inbreaking of hope into the world.  The lighting of the Advent wreath is a community ritual for the church inside the church as well as a ritual for the people of the church inside their homes.  In the nightly lighting ritual, every child becomes an acolyte.  Every adult or parent becomes a priest.  Advent is a joyous season in which we have permission to try on special roles and duties and in which we have permission to express our hope.

Hope can be like a mighty thunder or like a small, singing bird.  Hope can be as when a fire kindles brushwood or as when a switch flips on a simple battery-operated tea light.  While hope too big can invite despair, hope made small can invite a miracle.

I can remember being a child in Advent and lying in my bed at night, wondering if a manger and baby might magically appear at the foot of my bed.  For if the story told at church was of a true miracle of the past, such a miracle could potentially be repeated in the present.   I wondered if I were a good enough child for that miracle to come to me.  Looking back, I can see I was likely confused about what exactly I to hope for in Advent leading up to Christmas.  Was it a new bike with a banana seat or a little baby at the end of my bed?

Hope can be like expectations or wants of something yet to come, and we may feel most hopeful at the onset of something new.  Hope for the marriage about to be blessed.  Hope for the child about to be born.  Hope for the heart surgery scheduled for the morning.  Hope that the last round of radiation will do the trick.  Sometimes life exceeds our wants and expectations.  The bike comes not only with a banana seat but also a flag, a bell and pompoms.  At other times in life our hopes are dashed.  No manger or baby appears at the end of the bed.

When our expectations are exceeded, we may be blessed to suffer what a priest friend of mine calls “a glory attack.”  This is when we feel such joy and elation that we think we might explode.  When our expectations meet disappointment, we are given the opportunity to experience what another priest calls “mystical hope.”  Mystical hope is something described by Cynthia Bourgeault as “an abiding state of being.”  She teaches that we live in the state of mystical hope when we develop a conscious and permanent connection to the wellspring of God’s grace, whether the heart surgery can save us or not.

She writes about the death of her spiritual guide, mentor and friend, and says that she was keeping overnight vigil with his body when she heard his voice speak to her saying, “I’ll meet you…in the body of hope.”

Where do you suppose is the body of hope?  Where might be your personal body of hope?  Is it a person, place, thing? Is it your work, your family, your community?  Is it a place deep down in the soul?  We may say that our hope is in the LORD.  We also sometimes say that God is everywhere.  So then we still get to ask ourselves: where is my body of hope?

I am sure that my hope resides in the children of the school and children’s chapel every week.  My hope resides in the sound of beautiful music.  My hope resides in a rare, long and quiet walk.  As I age my hope resides even more in time spent with my parents.

One meme I found on the internet read, “Hope is the little voice you hear whispering “maybe” when it seems the entire world is shouting “no!”

Another read, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

Whatever you hope for, and wherever your hope may reside, I pray that you will seek it out and know it.  And I pray that your hope will be easily found.