Reflection: December 2 – ADVENT 1

Published on Dec 3rd, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         I loved the daily devotional from the United Church of Christ for last November 23rd and so I share some of it with you again today.  (I don’t know how I stumbled on these daily devotionals, but I get a lot out of them!)  The reflection was by Elsa Cook and the devotional was called, “Hope is a Verb.”

         Elsa writes about the Rev. William Barber spending time with his grandmother in her kitchen listening to her sing as she made dinner when he was young.  She’d give William a plate to eat and then make up some to-go plates for shut-ins, and then they’d take the plates to those folks.  His grandmother used to say, “We’re going to hope somebody.”

         “We’re going to hope somebody!”  Of course, the grammar of that sentence is all wrong, but the intent is absolutely bang-on! Hope is a verb.  We’re going to hope someone; we’re going to hope the world. Couldn’t describe Advent better than that!

         Hope as a verb is the intent of the righteous branch from the prophecy of Jeremiah, too.  These exact words may not be Jeremiah’s; they may come from a later time, but they fit into Jeremiah’s theology, namely that God will not let injustice, oppression and might win out.  God will bring about a righteous branch to spring up and life will be restored.  Jeremiah hoped the people of Israel into a new life.

         And that greening branch is wonderful imagery for us today as we seek out hope.  The image of a nurse log in a rainforest is a wonderful image of old, fallen trees becoming fertile soil for new shoots to bloom and reach for the sky, an image of the cycle of growth, death and new life, a symbol of hope.

         The question arises as to where the green shoot is rising. 

The temptation is always to look elsewhere, but really, it is rising in you, in me—in us!  It is rising in the sharing of a plate of food with those who are unable to get out of their homes.  It is rising in communities of resistance who are coming together around community gardens. It is rising in communities of faith which seek justice and compassion in tangible and practical ways.  It is rising in those who put their lives on the line against Monsanto because glyphosate is now being found in our food and even in some organic sources.  It is rising in those who say that the economy is not the most important thing—a future for our children and grandchildren is!  It is rising in the One who is incarnate in this world, who become one of us—in the very human and created world—to point to the KinDom of hope, promise and love that is available to all.  It is rising because ultimately the human will is oriented toward life and because God’s Spirit in all life is oriented towards green shoots.  We just need to get in tune.

         And that’s where Advent can come into play in profound ways—it can help get us in tune.  Advent invites in us an intentionality; we are intentional about getting together with others to break bread and have a hot drink. Many of us light a candle, share a reflection, and offer a prayer as part of our Advent discipline.  Some people look for gifts to share with loved ones, decorate trees and homes to celebrate the feast of Christmas; do this with the intention of creating more light in the world and to be a green shoot of hope… like the house up Josephine street with its lights!

This time of year can be challenging, but we can bring an intention of love and hope into all that we do (or don’t do depending upon your custom) that can change our attitudes from those of begrudging preparation tinged with frustration to a deepening awareness doused with a sense of being part of the Great Hope as Joanna Macy calls it.

         Jesus’ words in Luke were meant to instill hope.  Whatever Jesus thought about the coming KinDom of God, Jesus knew that it would require intentionality on our part, a focus, changes we may not want to make, and an expanding sense of being part of something greater—something vital and life-giving like a new forest of new shoots.  Jesus encouraged us all to be the green shoots springing forth into life.

         I’ll give the last word to Elsa Cook at the end of her devotional: “’Hope is a verb,’ he (the Rev. William Barber) says,

‘that pulls you up from the depths of despair, shakes you from your pain and points toward life. It’s not just an idea, but it’s what pushes you out the door to say that this isn’t the end. This isn’t all there is and there is justice to be done.’ [So,] head out the door and go hope on somebody.”

Amen.

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