SCRIPTURE: LUKE 21:25-36
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is a season of preparation for the
coming of Christ, a time of joyous expectation for the coming of the Lord. So I invite you
to think with me in this season about the major themes of hope, peace, joy and love,
and especially today, that “All the Earth is Hopeful.”
A group of kids were talking with their minister after Sunday school. The minister
was fishing for their thoughts about Thanksgiving and said, “Are you excited about
getting some time out of school? Are you looking forward to the holiday? Are you hoping
to do anything special?” Each child was full of excitement, but without exception they
talked about Christmas, not Thanksgiving.
They had the joyful expectation part down pat, but perhaps not for the most
spiritual of reasons, if you catch my drift! A big part of our on-going job as adults and
parents is to encourage the joyful expectation and keep at least some part of it focused
on the greatest gift of all, Jesus.
A dog psychologist (Yes, there are really such creatures!) thinks dogs are the
perfect symbol for Advent, because they always live hopefully. He said, “It may have
been five years since anything fell off the dining room table, but the dog is there, ever
watchful, ever hopeful.” It is an image that fits, isn’t it!
Not only are kids and dogs hopefully and joyfully expectant, but all creation is as
well. Isaiah, the post exile prophet writes, “All earth is hopeful, the Savior comes at last!
Furrows lie open for God’s creative task: this, the labor of people who struggle to see
how God’s truth and justice set everybody free. Mountains and valleys will have to be
prepared; new highways opened, new protocols declared.” (Isaiah 40:1-5)
On this First Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves in a bit of a time-warp. As we
begin our preparation for the birth of Christ, our text today is spoken by Jesus during
the last week of his life. He is speaking about the Second Advent, his coming back as
the Son of Man, the Judge. Using the apocalyptic imagery that was popular of his day,
Jesus speaks of signs in the cosmos, distress between nations, and people fainting
because they do not know what is coming.
The people of Jesus’ time were deeply restless because of the terrible bonds of
political oppression. In essence Jesus is saying all creation is involved, we are all in this
together. He assures us in the worst of times, the Son of Man is near at hand, coming
with power and great glory. As Jesus said in Mark’s gospel (13:1-8), when the temple is
destroyed it is time for disciples to be faithful; here he is saying that when the world
shudders, disciples are to stand up, do not hide, raise up your heads, be alert, trusting,
and hopeful, for your redemption is drawing near.
The coming of the Son of Man is a sign of the coming of God’s Kingdom, of God’s
will and dream for humanity and all creation becoming reality. This is why, in spite of
the dark imagery, advent is a time of joyful expectation.
After this announcement, Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree. The fig tree was
a metaphor for the peace and prosperity of Israel. Its sprouting leaves are a sign that
God’s will is near.
So, we gather today in joyful expectation as we prepare to celebrate the birth of
Christ. We gather also in joyful expectation that one day Christ will come again in full
glory. Consequently, our joyful expectation takes on new dimensions. As the song
states, “Almost here! God is nearing, in beauty and grace! All clear every gateway, in
haste, come out in haste!” The call is for us as Christ’s disciples to come out in haste, to
fully live our faith as we offer life-giving love to others. All earth is hopeful to see the
Savior, and all creation waits for us to live as the Savior’s people. Paul put it this way in
Romans 8:19. “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”
Let me share with you the stories of two people who have revealed they are children of
Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah (Nigh-yo-mah) is a Kenyan who in 2001 was a pre-med
student studying in this country. On September 11, 2001, he happened to be in New
York City when the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred. When he returned to
Kenya, to his nomadic Massai people, he told his terrible experiences on that day.
The tribal elders were so moved by his account, they wanted to do something.
Cows are a symbol of life for the Massai people, so they decided to send a herd of
fourteen cows to the U.S. as a sign of compassion. Our State Department decided that
the cost of importing the cows would be greater than the value of the herd. The tribe
then decided to keep them for the Americans, setting the cows apart and vowing never
to slaughter or sell them. The Massai’s action demonstrated their compassion, their
solidarity with us, and their desire for the healing of our people.
A second example of people acting as children of God involves Akio Nishikiori
(Nish-ik-iori) of Hiroshima, Japan. Akio was eight years old when the atomic bomb was
dropped on his city. His eldest sister was working that day in a downtown factory and
died from extensive burns received from the bomb blast. Years later, in spite of his
personal loss, he was one who pushed for a sister city relationship between Hiroshima
and Honolulu. He also pushed his Japanese service club to establish an affiliate
relationship with its Honolulu counterpart. Now the two clubs’ members visit back and
forth each year, the Japanese club has planted peace trees in Blaisdell Park overlooking
the USS Arizona Memorial, and the Honolulu club planted trees in Hiroshima’s Peace
Memorial Park. Deep, true, and joyful personal relationships have developed between
individual members of the two clubs over the years.
In keeping with the theme “All Earth is Hopeful.” our United Methodist Church is
a worldwide community, with 11 million members in 40,000 congregations spread across
the earth in Africa, Asia, Europe, Mexico, Canada and the United States. There are 120
Bishops who oversee our mission and ministry. Each year as the church prepares for the
coming of the Prince of Peace, the bishops write pastoral letters to the congregations. A
few years ago there was a pastoral letter that states, “We have turned our backs on god
and on our responsibilities. We must begin the work of renewing creation by being
renewed in our hearts and minds. First let us orient our lives towards god holy vision.
Second, let us practice social and environmental holiness. Third, let us live and act in
These examples that I have mentioned are rather heroic in scale. Most likely you
and I will witness on a smaller scale, but out witness is important nonetheless. Our
personal prayers and actions are integral to a hopeful future.
Thanksgiving afternoon, our son and I were walking around our front yard,
talking about the grass that was still growing, and the probability of needing to
fertilize the lawn in the spring. I noticed that there were some north Texas yellow weeds (I
really don’t what they are called). They were in full bloom. I thought about telling
Andrea that there north Texas yellow weeds growing in our yard, but had second
thoughts about doing that. It would confirm to her that I am not a gardener—and she
prefers to pull the weeds herself.
Here it is the end of November and there still are north Texas yellow weeds
growing in our yard. Those north Texas yellow weeds became a sign of hope and new
hope in the midst of a winter season.
As we begin our Advent season take a few moments to contemplate how you
might offer some new demonstration of hope to the world. How can you witness to
the hope we have in Jesus? How can you embody hope?
All earth is hopeful. Creation waits in eager longing for the revealing of the
Children of God.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH