Updated: Nov 29, 2019
“Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope. The Hebrew Bible is not an optimistic book. It is, however, one of the great literatures of hope.”
-Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
We don't live in optimistic times. While the economy seems to do well, things seem rather off kilter. People feel their job security is rather shaky, knowing they could lose their employment at any minute. Our society is more divided than ever by ideology, race and class. The slow workings of government in Washington has seemed to grind to a halt. Authoritarianism rears its head throughout the world, from Poland and Hungary in Europe, to China and India in Asia, Venezuela and Brazil in Latin America and even here in the United States. Mass shootings happen with an alarming frequency in the US and more and more, some of those shootings are racially or ethnically motivated. Even though we are far healthier than past generations of Americans the life expectancy keeps dropping as people face increasing despair. The opioid crisis wrecks lives and families.
We don't live in optimistic times at all. The world is a mess.
But we do live in hopeful times. It was in a world that was not optimistic, but hopeful that Jesus came in this reality and turned the world upside down.
Advent, the four weeks before Christmas is a time of preparation - time when we wait. We are actively waiting, hoping for something, or someone to change things for the better. We want someone to put the world to right. We need someone to put our hearts to rights.
The theme for Advent 2019 is "Verge of a Miracle." The name was also the title of a song by the late Contemporary Christian musician Rich Mullins. The song speaks of someone who feels far away from love, when in reality they are very near to that love. "The love that seems so far away, is standing very near." Our world feels at times like it is far away from any sense of redemption or justice. But the reality is that hope is very near to us. Advent is when we await the coming of the one that is Hope.
The theme also speaks to where we are as a church. As we are discerning a vision for the congregation, it may seem foolish to seek a vision when as a congregation we are hanging on by a thread. But seeking a vision isn't foolish. No, it is rather bold; not that there will be a happy ending, but to be active disciples of Jesus doing God's work in God's world.
All of the Bible text for the theme come from the book of Isaiah. This book was written in uncertain times, but was actively hopeful, believing and acting in the hope that God had not given up on the people of Israel. It is a reminder that no matter how bad things can get in our world, we are never forgotten by God. It is that hope that pushes us forward.
Please join us starting December 1 as we stand at the "Verge of a Miracle."