Advent has grown on me over the years. When I first started in ministry, it felt like an overwhelming few weeks filled with controversies – Advent Hymns or Christmas Hymns, purple or blue, children’s pageant or live nativity, and so on. I’m happy to say that Advent has changed from a time filled with extra events and programs to a liturgical season full of possibility and hope. Advent invites personal and communal seeking and celebrating. It’s an opportunity to remember that there is light that no despair can extinguish. The texts this week call our attention to the Christ who is and was and is to come.

The Isaiah text is an invitation to begin the journey to the house of God, to walk in the light of God. Here in the US, the reminder that earthly rulers are not where we find strength and hope is quite timely. God promises days to come that will be peace-filled. One day swords will become ploughshares and war among nations will be no more. Is there any more welcomed message? Yet, this message does not come without challenge. What are we doing as individuals and as congregations to ensure that we walk in the light of God and bring about this day when peace will reign?

Psalm 122 continues this theme of hope and gladness in the invitation to go to the house of God. It’s all about peace, here. Peace within the walls of the city. Peace to the people of God. The last line is the tough one, though. “For the sake of the house of the Sovereign our god, I will seek good.” It’s the personal pronoun here. I will seek your good. This is where the hope lies. What are we doing for the sake of God?

Romans continues this with a call to wake up. Of course Paul believed that Jesus would return before the end of his life and so the demand for vigilance was reasonable. How much more reasonable is it now? Now is truly the time for us to wake from sleep and see that it is well past time for us to “put on the armor of light.” In these days of increased hate crimes and public displays of racism folks need to side with hope and trust that in Christ there is a better way. Apathy and indifference will not bring about a day of peace. Waking up, acknowledging the need for Christ’s presence, and then responding to fear and hatred with hope and kindness will remind us that we are not alone. The people of God have been here before.

Of all the texts this week, Matthew is the one I find troublesome. If I can skip over the condemning passages, I would go right to the “keep awake” part. My denomination doesn’t really focus much on the Second Coming of Christ and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. But what I do know is that we need to be awake. We need to be agents of hope, peace, joy, and love in a world that is currently swaddled in deep darkness.

As we enter into this new liturgical year, where in these passages do you find hope? Where is the Spirit leading you? Perhaps your Advent themes are other than the traditional hope, peace, joy, and love so you might be looking at these texts with a different lens. Please join in the conversation as we begin to imagine, once again, a world filled with the light of God.

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, vlog, and books at

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Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann

8 thoughts on “RCL: Walking in Hope

  1. We’ll use the Isaiah text in the advent candlelighting, the psalm in the call to worship, and read the Romans and Matthew texts just before the sermon. My title is “Jesus is coming. Look busy!” I’m struck by the reference to Noah in the Matthew text. Everybody was busy, but Noah was busy with a purpose, and in communication with God. “Tis the season to be busy. Can we be mindful and prayerful in our busyness? This Sunday is also our first back in the sanctuary after our fire last December, and I’m baptizing my granddaughter. A great day to celebrate hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there! Not sure exactly where the sermon will end up, but I’m focusing on image of sword into plowshares, and contrasting that “vision” of the future with the more sombre, scary one in Matthew.

    Liked by 1 person

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