Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37
One of the great gifts of the Church universal is the season of Advent. Instead of rushing headlong into Christmas, we take time to prepare ourselves to greet Jesus anew each year. In the craziness of the holiday season, Advent provides a calm center around which to order our lives. Remembering the words of Scripture and spending time in prayer reorients us to God’s time and reminds us to anticipate Jesus – not only as a baby, but also at his return. We trust in the hope of his coming to bring all of creation to completion. And hope is the first watchword of Advent.
Late in the book of Isaiah, we learn that the Israelite exiles in Babylon are returning to their holy city. Imagine! The exile had lasted 50 years – 50 years of waiting, of praying, of hoping against hope that life would go back to normal. But when they get home, their hopes are dashed. The city is in shambles. The Israelites who had remained resent the intrusion of the exiles, who assume that they can have their old property back. And their freedom isn’t complete – they are still under the thumb of imperial power, this time Persia instead of Babylon. In their grief, they cry out to God: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”
Hope seems hard to come by these days. We know too much. We have seen and heard too much to keep investing in hope. But there is a way – through lament. Lament is the time-honored and God-honored practice of crying out to God. It is grief expressed with honesty, and it is ultimately faithful, because it assumes that God is listening and that God cares. Hope doesn’t always sound cheerful. Sometimes it sounds heart-rending, because God’s own heart is also rent in two by our suffering.
LET US PRAY
God, we come to you in lament for the world as the season of Advent begins. Never have we wanted you to tear open the heavens more than we do right now. Come quickly. Amen.
Reverend Ellen Di Giosia is the Pastor of First Baptist Church Jefferson City. She is most looking forward to spending time with her family and friends during this Advent season.