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2021-11-28 Advent 1

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Advent season is once again upon us. It’s like when you take a flight on an airplane and the captain comes on over the loud speaker and tells everyone to please return to their seats and buckle up because they are beginning the descent to the destination. That’s much like the season of Advent. We are headed to Christmas. That’s the desired destination. That’s where we are going. But Advent is like the flight to get there. It’s the journey. It’s the trip. I saw that message quite a bit in our travels to the west coast a few years back. There were loads of hippies in VW camper vans with “Life is a journey, not a destination” written on the outside. “They obviously aren’t travelling with small children” I thought to myself!

But it’s a nice quote all the same. Life is lived in the “getting there”. It’s the journey where the ups & downs happen. It’s the memories and stories we make along the way that we reminisce about. Advent has this kind of a feel to it. It’s the journey to Christmas. We are looking forward to where we are going. But we’re not there yet. We still have quite a ways to go. In lots of ways, all of life resembles Advent. We are always looking forward to the next stage of life. When we’re little, we can’t wait to grow up and get our driver’s license, graduate school and go to University, get a job, get married, and then it’s have kids and retire, and then as God’s people, reach our final destination, our heavenly home. So the journey of life is always lived in this amazing hope.

Hope is one of the chief themes of Advent, along with Peace, Joy and Love. We nickname each of our Advent candles in this regard. Hope is a great virtue and blessing for us. We’d be in a lot of trouble if we didn’t have hope. As Christians, we are always assured of God’s hope. And His hope is different than the flimsy, worldly hope of Hallmark greeting cards. Like, we hope our curling team wins the championship or we hope the Riders make it to the Grey Cup. This kind of expectation is without any certainty. It’s a well-wish at best. God’s hope is different. His hope is guaranteed. We hope in God with full expectation, with full assurance that God will make good on His promises. This isn’t to say we will always get what we want and expect. Far from it! Rather, it means that as we surrender to God’s leading along this journey of life, we know that He will never fail us. He will never let us down.

It’s easy to have faith and believe God’s promises when life is going easy. But when times get rocky and our faith is tested, we have a more difficult time. We have a harder time letting hope fill our lives as doubt creeps in. Here we are, from “2 weeks to flatten the curve” to 2 years later. And now, a fresh Greek Letter variant is here, just in time for Christmas! Cue the mass fear, panic and lock downs! Maybe you are seeing a pattern here? World-wide supply chains are being compromised. And this is far beyond making sure the kids get a tickle-me-Elmo doll for Christmas, this is affecting food and fuel and other essentials. When life gets tough like this, it tends to want to extinguish our hope. But this is when we need to double down on our faith. We need to believe more than ever that God is still on His throne and that He truly loves and cares for us. We need to trust that hoping in Him never fails, despite the hard times that may come.

We need to remember that when we have nothing else, we still have hope. God’s people have always been a people of hope. They hoped that God will rescue them from slavery in Egypt. … And He did. They hoped that God would lead them through the wilderness to the promised land. … And He did. They hoped that God would provide for their needs. … And He did. They hoped desperately that God would send a Savior, the promised Messiah of old to rescue and deliver His people again. And, as we well know, He did. The people always had hope and God never let them down. But it wasn’t always easy. Our Jeremiah reading for this first Sunday in Advent illustrates this well for us.

It was dark times for God’s people. Much darker than even Black Friday! The Babylonians had come through, wreaking havoc, destroying and killing, and carting the people off into captivity. Big powerful nations like we see around us today were squaring off against each other, fighting and besieging, conquering and enslaving. King Nebuchadnezzar came marching through, utterly grinding the nation of Israel to a powder! God’s city of Jerusalem, the city of peace, was now literally the city of pieces ripped and torn from top to bottom! Her city walls were in a shambles. Their king watched as his sons were executed in front of him, right before being blinded and carted off to Babylon as a common slave. What did the people of Judah have left? Their nation was destroyed. Their line of Kings was deleted. Their promised land was torn from their hands. What did they have left? … They still had hope!

Hope, in the one true God. The people hoped that this God would help them and rescue them. They hoped that the Living God would forgive their sins that brought this calamity upon them. They hoped that God would send the Saviour to come and deliver the people, making their nation great again. They prayed and hoped that Jeremiah the prophet was speaking the truth when he said “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16).

People that have nothing cling to hope. Even people who have plenty should still cling to hope. Because heavenly hope does not put us to shame. It will not let us down. It does not depend on human power and strength but wholly leans on the Lord for help. This is why the first candle we light on the Advent wreath is the candle of hope. The Messiah that Jeremiah prophesied about has come. That righteous branch of David is the same one who came into Jerusalem riding on a low and humble donkey. The greatest hope we have and our greatest need come together in Jesus our Saviour. The forgiveness of our sins of hopelessness. The assurance that the promised land of Heaven awaits us. The help and strength we need to carry on in this world. It’s all there for us as we put our hope and trust in the Lord our God.

Advent becomes for us a whole season of hope. It’s a special time to reprogram our hearts and minds to centre our lives on God and hope for our Messiah. He promised that He would come to us and He did, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And, He promised that He would come to us in His Holy Word and His Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and He has. And, He has promised to come again to take us all to be with Himself eternally, to that blessed heavenly home that is our blessed heavenly hope. The Lord always keeps His promises to us. He is Emmanuel, the God who is with us in the darkest of times and the brightest of times. He is with us now and always will be. May our Lord’s real presence fill you with Advent hope now as we journey to Christmas and always. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

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