it is often said that the Christmas season is the season of love, and a time to have hope for a better tomorrow. but we may feel that there is little to have hope in, and even less to love. these days we all feel the effects of a stressed economy, and living as we do in a global economy that stress is felt world wide. so where is the hope?
looking at the world stage things seem very frightening indeed. particularly at this moment with the uncertainty in korea. the relationship of the two koreas has been strained from the beginning of the armistice some 60 years ago. who knows what will happen next between these two nations, which are in fact one people, a situation that pits brother against sister, and one wonders - where is the love?
if we place our hope in circumstances there is little to hope in, because circumstances are constantly in flux, the world situation, and our own personal life situations - are always caught up between the ebb and flow, between tension and ease, between hardship and comfort. one day we feel on top of the world, and the next day the world feels on top of us. if our hope is simply that tomorrow will be a better day, if our hope is in changing circumstances, then that hope indeed is weak, and without foundation, and thus is no hope at all.
in the letter to the romans paul writes (15:4) “for whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” he is referring to the hebrew scriptures, but why is he telling us to look for instruction in the writings of days gone by? the old testatment is a collection of stories about struggle, times of shifting circumstances, not unlike our own time. in that case why study these writings? What is the encouragement we will find in them that “we might have hope”?
perhaps the reason to study them is exactly in the similarity, these ancient people lived in a world of uncertainty much as we do. what was the hope that enabled the ancient hebrews to endure in the face of exile, and in the face of return to their broken homeland, in the face of the ever shifting circumstances that is all of human history? in studying their stories we find that their hope was not in fate or circumstance or even in themselves, but in a God greater then themselves or the circumstances they found themselves in; a faithful God whose love was steadfast, which means a love that is fixed and focused and firmly planted. though the circumstances of the hebrews varied greatly, as our circumstances today vary, their hope, like their God, remained steadfast, enabling them to live through crisis and endure as a people.
in the next two verses paul offers a prayer which I find very interesting, (15:5, 6) “may the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, through Jesus Christ, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” now advent is a time we remember Emmanuel - the God who is with us, who came into our world in the person of Jesus Christ to experience with us the shifting circumstances of human life, both the joys of relationship and the heartache of broken trust; and to witness to us in the flesh the ever present reality of God. and even more, Christ came into the world, a world filled with all our individual and collective brokenness and sin, to welcome humanity into His life. through living in Him harmony is possible, even though our feelings and opinions may differ, because He is our harmony.
in musical terminology harmony refers to the combination of notes sounded simultaneously, different notes with different sounds that are played at the same time and yet work together to produce something beautiful - because they are combined within a structure which enables them to be different while at the same time sharing in a purpose – that is to make a beautiful noise. Christ is the harmony who takes our differences and constructs them together to make something beautiful. therein is our hope, and therein is the love which makes that hope a living hope rooted in the living God. through Jesus, our many and different notes blend into one voice giving glory to God.
but how does the harmony of our voice in Christ become real in this world of shifting circumstances? paul gives us the answer when he writes in the next verse, (15:7) “welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you”. according to random house, to welcome means “to receive or accept with pleasure; to regard another person as pleasant or good”. now Christ has come to welcome us into His life, and when we welcome Christ into our life we are freed from the bondage of selfishness that disables us from truly receiving another person. if Christ, who lives in us, has done this for us, then through Him we can do this for one another. thus the miracle of welcoming, which began in Christ continues to unfold in our world through Christ.
in welcoming us Jesus takes our uniqueness into the harmony of a diverse yet unified voice that gives glory to God. by welcoming us He frees our hearts, and in so doing we become open to welcome others into the life of Christ, into a living community of lovers. yes lovers, not lovers in a worldly sense, but true lovers of Christ, and through him lovers of one another, who welcome and accept one another in joy. we are able to welcome, and to love, because He first welcomed and loved us. it is in this welcoming love, and not in ever shifting circumstance, that we find the real hope - for our hope is in the love God has for us. real hope, real love, from the real God of all - who searches our hearts and calls us to be a people, and not just any people but the people of God in Christ.
so let us pray during this advent season and throughout our lives – (15:13) “may the God of hope fill each of us with all joy and peace in believing, so that each of us may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” and so we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and the Savior of the world, amen.
©2010 halley low