For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Good morning! I hope that despite the unique circumstances of 2020 you were able to have a restful and meaningful Thanksgiving weekend. Know that all of you were in my prayers this weekend and I am so happy to be with you this morning as we enter the season of Advent together.
Advent is a time where we wait with anxious anticipation for the coming of Jesus. Traditionally, this first Sunday in Advent is the week when we remember that Jesus is the source of our hope. We remember that no matter how hard life can be, there is hope to be found if we are willing to look for it. Just as the Hebrew prophets waited with expectation for their Messiah, and Mary and Joseph waited with eagerness for the birth of their child, we too wait for our encounter with the divine.
In her book, “All Earth is Waiting: Good News for God’s Creation at Advent” Katie Dawson explains hope this way:
“In Hebrew, the words wait and hope share a common root. At the core of each, no matter the language, is the idea of expectation, and Advent is the season of expectation. In the Christian tradition, this season invites us to prepare our hearts- and not just for the birth of the child in Bethlehem. We are invited to wait and hope for that future day of salvation when Christ will come once again, bringing the Kingdom of God that has no end. Behind this longing, this expectation, this hope, is recognition that things are not the way they should be and a vision that draws us forward into the future…Filled with this vision, we are invited to share the good news of God’s kingdom with others and to live lives worthy of its calling, even as we wait”
Things are not the way they should be. All of us in this church, who share a passion for social justice and care of creation know that things are not the way that they should be. We live in a society that fears what it doesn’t understand, and from that fear springs hatred for those who are on the margins of society. We live in a culture that cares more for personal comfort than it does for creation, so the things we do for our own convenience causes harm to our climate. Fear of scarcity causes us to consume too much, buy too much, hoard too much…at the expense of those who do not have enough.
But Advent reminds us that there is still hope for the creation of God’s kingdom here on Earth, and an invitation to live into that hope right now. In our scripture for this morning, Paul writes “…For creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
Paul teaches us that hope for our world lies with us, God’s children, but humanity has been poor caretakers of this world. Katie Dawson puts it this way, “We were supposed to live out the image of God and care for this world, but instead we have used and abused one another and this planet. We have neglected the fundamental truth of creation: that we belong to God; that it all belongs to God.”
But hope tells us that no matter how desperate things might seem, it is never too late to do the right thing. In fact, God asks us to live out our call as God’s children right now. Our hope is in Jesus, but all of the earth waits and hopes for us to create God’s kingdom here and now.
Having hope is hard. It is so much easier to give up or to give in. It is so much easier to say that there is no way to fix the systems that are hurting people in our country and in our world than it is to hope that we can change them. It is so much easier to be discouraged by the weight of the world than it is to believe that we might be able to change things. Hope isn’t easy, but hope paired with action is the key to our survival.
One of my favorite stories of hope in the midst of despair is the story of 33 miners in Chile. On August 5th, 2010, a collapse of the main ramp into a mine left them trapped 2,300 feet underground. The outside world couldn’t reach them, and they were unable to dig themselves back out. Their situation seemed hopeless, and very well could have been.
The amazing thing about these miners is that they did not give up hope. They elected a leader, rationed their food, used electrical lights to simulate day and night, and started each day with prayer. A week passed by. And then two. By the beginning of week three, the miners were living on one bite of food every three days. But they were still living.
Outside of the mine, there was a rescue effort working hard to get to the miners. Attempt after attempt was made, but the conditions of the mine made it slow going. And then, on August 23rd, they were able to make contact through a probe. They sent some food and water to the miners, who in return were able to send written messages saying that they were okay and thanking the rescuers for all their hard work. The drilling and the planning and the praying and holding on continued.
On August 29th, the miners were each given 20 seconds to speak to family members. The rescue efforts continued on outside of the mine, but drill bit after drill bit broke. On September 9th, the miners filmed a 3 minute video for their loved ones and the rescuers on the outside that showed their daily routine and that they still were holding on. It had been over a month, but they still had hope.
And so, the crew outside continued to work to free the miners and the miners continued to hold onto hope that they would be rescued. Another month passed, day by day more progress was made. Then, on October 13th, the true rescue began. After 22 ½ hours, all 33 of the miners who had been trapped were rescued from the mine. It took 52 days, but each miner survived.
My friends, that is a story of hope in the midst of despair. If the miners had given up hope, there is no way they could have survived 52 days trapped in that mine. If the rescuers had given up when their equipment failed or when Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C didn’t work, 33 people wouldn’t have found their way back to their families. Despite the uncertainty, despite the nearly impossible odds against them, they all held onto hope…and ended up with a miracle.
In her Advent sermon from last year, Rev. Liz Miller described hope this way: “Hope is not passive. It is not a wish. It is not naïve optimism. Hope is resistance. It is words of love spoken in resistance to a narrative of hate. It is actions of peace taken in resistance to violence and apathy. Is it communities caring for our children, our elders, our vulnerable populations and reimagining shared power in resistance to isolation and greed and corrupt power. Hope requires working for God’s vision for all people, of understanding the obstacles, setbacks, and heartaches that we will surely face when we turn against the status quo or challenge institutions and individuals who seek to keep things the way they are, but committing to the work of the vision anyway.
Hope is about resisting despair. I ask each of us on this first day of Advent, what present despair and dismay is blurring your vision? What is breaking your heart? What have you seen in this world and thought, “That’s not right. It shouldn’t be this way.” How can we look beyond the despair to live into the “not yet”? What actions can we take to embody hope – to work for God’s vision for all people on earth, indeed for all of creation – to resist despair?”
This Advent let us hear the groaning of creation and choose to be people of hope and action. Let us help give birth to something new and beautiful in our world. Amen