Reflection 120119 (Advent 1) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 2:1-5/ Romans 13:11-14/ Matthew 24:36-44
Hope: Waiting for the Divine
Do you or have you ever had a wish list? Wish list contains things we want or things we want to do, now or some day. For me, one object I want is a beautiful vintage publication of a Jane Austen’s novel. One of the many things I would like to do in my lifetime is to learn another language. German is first on my list, but I also want to learn Hungarian and Arabic because my husband is Hungarian and my best friend is from the Middle East. I also want the power to teleport, but that might require a lot of effort and determination, don’t you think? Now, these are long term wishes; what do you want for Christmas? I’m sure, just like me, there are a lot of things you want to have and do. We often talk about hopes and dreams, but the theme of first Advent Sunday is about a different kind of hope. Wish and hope are different. We will learn that hope comes from God.
What we read in the Book of Isaiah is a hope for God’s people; it’s a hope that God’s people should dream. It’s a hope of peace as I have mentioned on Remembrance Sunday. Life-destroying weapons shall turn into life-giving farm tools. This image of peace reminds us that God wants a just relationship between humans, that we are called to work for God’s reign of love and justice on earth; this should be our hope.
Christ is coming on Christmas. God is coming to live among us as a human; this is the point of Christmas. Because we don’t know God’s will, because we don’t know how to live as God’s people, God is coming among us. This God taught us how to live as God’s people and fought for the marginalized of the society, proclaiming God’s reign. Because he refused the hierarchical social order, the ones who had power considered him to be a serious threat. So, they had him killed. We are now living in the “in between” times (after Christ left the earth and before his coming back), when we should be busy working to bring God’s kingdom of earth. This time is temporary. Christ will come again to harvest, to judge. But the timing is uncertain. The Book of Romans and the Gospel of Matthew both talk about the need for alertness because no one knows when that day will be.
Advent is a time of waiting, but this waiting is not passive; it’s a waiting with a sense of promise. It is also an active waiting. We don’t just lie down and wait for the apple to fall; We do things to make it happen, like shaking the branch. Active waiting during Advent requires fully being present in the moment with the conviction about the promise. Because we believe in the divine promise for God’s reign of justice, we don’t just sit and wonder. We don’t just sit and think God’s kingdom is in the future; we get up and participate in the work, here and now. During Advent, we are waiting for the baby who will start the ministry of God’s reign. We are waiting for God to come among us, to live with us, and to guide us. We are waiting for the divine. But there is another aspect of hope; that we are anticipating something we don’t know what. We heard the story of the wise men who set out on a long and uncertain journey with the hope of finding something grand, although they didn’t know what they would find at the end of the journey. This is hope; waiting for something unknown with faith.
This season, we will be busy writing Christmas cards, buying presents for loved ones, preparing food, and decorating. There will be Christmas music, Christmas movies, and the cultural pressure to spend more money. But even during the festivity, let us never forget what Christmas is about and what we are waiting for during Advent. In Korea, we have a day to celebrate the birth of the man who became Buddha. On that day, every year, we are reminded of his teachings. Buddhists in the country use that day as a reminder of their own spiritual quest following the teachings of Buddha, because we do become complacent lost in life. It should be the same for us Christians on Christmas. We should remember that the man who was later proclaimed as Christ/ God’s Chosen One, taught that God wants us to love and respect one another, that no one or no one group of people should be marginalized and mistreated. Christmas should be a reminder of God’s universal love and love for justice and peace. This should nudge us into living out that principle. Let us seek out those who are in need, sad, and weary. Let us not be silent in the face of social evil. Let us welcome refugees. Let us humble ourselves to serve one another; all in the hope for God’s reign of justice. Let us spiritually be awake while we actively wait for the divine among us. Come, O come, Emmanuel God!