“Keep awake,” says Jesus. It’s yawn, stretch, and get moving time. Advent is here and there is much work to be done. There’s no time for napping or hitting the snooze button. It’s stand up on your tip toes, bounce with excitement, and get ready time. It doesn’t matter how tired we are or the state of chaos in the world. Hope is about to be rekindled, peace is on the horizon, joy is shining on the edges of our vision, and love is just an arm’s length away. Take a full, deep breath, and let it out because God is going to reach down into the broken, forgotten, despairing, and lonely places and shake things up once again.
Can you feel the words of Isaiah echoing down through the ages to speak truth right now? “O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” The longing of the prophet is our very same longing, isn’t it? Isaiah attributed God’s absence to God being angry with God’s people and pleaded with God for forgiveness so that the Potter could reshape the people into wonderful works once again. I don’t agree with Isaiah’s theology exactly. I think we have turned from God and God is waiting for us to return to holy ways so that we will once again reflect the beauty and glory of our Creator. But the result is still the same; we need God’s mercy and forgiveness. And we desperately need the hope of this Advent season to turn our attention back to the One who is, was, and is to come.
The Psalmist echos Isaiah’s yearning with a prayer the could be on all our lips: “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” When is the last time you saw God’s face shine? When is the last time any of our congregations have been that holy, shining face for neighbors and strangers who are most vulnerable? Will this Advent kindle or rekindle the desire to be beacons of hope in a world filled with chaos, violence, and despair?
Paul reminded the folks in Corinth that they had all they needed to endure the troubles of their day. Christ was their strength and their hope, no matter what conflicts arose in their community or in the world around them. Do we still think about Christ in this way? In our Advent waiting, what do we need to clear out to make room once more for the power and presence of Christ? We have all we need to endure the troubles of our day. We have a couple thousand years of history and stories telling us about the great gift of Love in Christ and calling us to embody that Love. Is there a better time than now to turn from our human ways of fear and anger and seek out the holy ways of hope and love?
And if our passion has not yet been stirred and we aren’t leaning forward into the season on the very tips of our toes, Jesus calls to us in Mark to keep awake. We can’t afford to fall into the troubled sleep of helplessness and despair. The world may reject every glimmer of Love and every flicker of hope, but that does not mean we stop trying to break the bonds of injustice. Just because the powers of this world hold up greed and oppression as the path to salvation, does not mean we stop seeking liberty for the captives, healing for the sick, hope for the imprisoned, and new life for despairing. Just because too many of us are lulled to sleep by the status quo, does not mean that we remain silent. Let’s wake up and sing of the Hope that will set the world on fire!
What do you hear in these texts this week. Perhaps you have a different theme for this first Sunday of Advent. Please share your plans and ideas so we may join together in bringing Hope into the world once more.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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