by Rev. Brett Opalinski, Christ UMC, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
First, read John 14:1-6
Growing up, this was the time of year my brother, sister and I would go through my grandmother’s Sears catalog, “dog-earing” pages, leaving subtle hints about what we wanted to find under the tree on Christmas morning. We hoped our parents, grandparents, someone would see. If you had asked me back then what I hoped for, I could have answered very clearly: the newest Star Wars figure or X-Wing fighter (yes, I am a child of the late 70’s and early 80’s), a Dallas Cowboys football helmet, or even one year a drum set. I knew exactly what I hoped for.
When Jesus was born, he was born into a world that was hoping. It was not for toys or things, but something deeper. For many years, the Hebrew people had lived under the oppression of the Roman authorities. They were not free in their own land -- many were hungry, violence was commonplace, family farms had been taken away to make room for industry and advancement, and many people lived under the weight of debt and fear. Into this world God was coming to bring hope.
Today's passage from John reminds us that God’s work is much bigger than the right now. There is a bigger story: God’s story. Jesus reveals the way into that story. It is to meet life with God’s own heart. As we do this, we become a part of God’s eternal life, God’s great peace, and God’s eternal joy. This doesn’t mean that life will always be easy or that things will go as we wish, but we can hope -- even when the world seems to be falling apart -- because God has a bigger story and the struggles of the day cannot overcome it.
I wonder if I have the same clarity about my hopes today as I did when I was a child. To be honest, my hopes have changed. There are still things that I want to find under the Christmas tree, but there are other things -- deeper things -- things that can’t be found in a catalog, or in a store or online. It is into these hopes that I pray God will be born this Advent season. What are the hopes that you have that you can trust into God’s bigger story?
God, you know our deepest hopes…come in these days of Advent and be born into them.
Litany for the First Week of Advent
The world is often dark, anxious and fear-filled,
Find rest in God’s hope.
We can be greedy, selfish, and cruel,
Start again in God’s hope.
We are broken and imperfect,
Build something new with God’s hope.
We are busy, distracted, and drifting,
Find firm ground in God’s hope.
Something new is happening,
We dare to dream in God’s hope. Amen
If you haven't made one already, be sure to take a look at this plan for a family Advent wreath. We'll be using this wreath as a part of our weekly celebrations during Advent. An Advent wreath is a great opportunity to share in a tradition and a ritual with your family during this special season. You can see more about Advent wreaths on our main LECFamily Advent page.