Advent 2: where there’s hope?

Two words from last week: chronos, the way we measure or notice the passage of time and Kairos, the way we feel the present moment, the held breath, perhaps, or the captured sense of reflection.

So, how has the week gone for you? Were there moments when you have managed to pause and reflect. Have you had time? Have you been able to make time? In the gathered moment, did you resist the urge to dash? It is a strong urge, an urge that our culture installs in us.

I hope you have had moments of all kinds this past week. I hope it’s been a week of good kairos and of good chronos! I hope. In your moments of kairos, I hope you’ve paused to consider what comes next, as we journey through advent, and each week a different moment comes before us.

Here’s the prayer from Paul’s letter, once more. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

And this week is a time, a moment, of hope and of purification.We hear about John the baptist, we pray about purity and of being ready for Jesus. We consider the place of hope. Hope. If last week’s word was Kairos, then this week’s is Hope.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” We do so with hope. We have a message of hope and of preparation, a message of longing and a time of waiting. But not a time of inaction. Being ready and waiting does not mean you just sit down and do nothing. John the Baptist was at pains to point this out: “Repent for the kingdom of God has come near!” Find a way to turn to Christ. That is our action this week, turning in hope.

“Repent for the kingdom of God has come near!”

I bet John was fun at parties. Well, he was a bit of an odd bloke, we have to accept: John the Baptist, the guy who wore rags, and who ate a weird diet of locusts and honey. I guess locusts are a bit like prawns. He lived in the desert. He was but one of many such men who at the time tried to find a way to live a life that would reveal to others the true meaning of God’s world. To make sense of what was going on around him. And he implore his followers to turn to Christ. He was, of course, your typical odd ball: the kind of guy who you’d probably move seat on a train to avoid sitting next to him, a little bit at right angles to the world. Prone to vocal outbursts. Probably a bit smelly. Certainly not one to hold back on what he thought about things. But he knew that Jesus was on his way. He spoke about the voice in the wilderness, about how God would send the messiah, how the valleys and hills would be flattened out so we could all live good easy lives. He lived with hope in his heart. A man of substance, and passion, but, well, not easy to get along with. And he baptised people in hope that they would be encouraged to live purer lives. He wasn’t saying everyone was wrong, but that if we live in hope that the messiah is coming, then we do actually have to find ways that our hope can bring about a better life for everyone.

John took people them through the river Jordan, and symbolically washed away all that was sinful in their lives. In hope. He lived in hope that Jesus was coming, and knew he had to prepare people for that moment.

It is to John we look when hear the collect for today:

“Almighty God,
purify our hearts and minds,
that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as judge and saviour
we may be ready to receive him,
who is our Lord and our God.”

Purify our hearts and minds… Why? What should we purify them for? What difference would that make? We need to be refreshed, purified, if you like, because we live in hope.

Hope is one of the three features of our lives that Paul identifies in his letter to the Corinthians, and whilst he says that love is of course the greatest, our hope is what gives us a direction. If we live in the moment, in kairos, then we need to look beyond that moment in hope. After all, baptism as introduced by John the Baptist has a major element of hope within its makeup: hope for the life to come when we are filled with God’s love, through faith, and follows a time or preparation for what is to come. What would be the point of baptism if th re were no sense of hope? Baptism is a start. But it is only that. We look forward in hope because we are baptised. Washed. Made clean. John saw that if we are baptised, in hope, then those hopeful predictions of Isaiah will come to some kind of reality.

Isaiah was being poetic when he said that (Isaiah 11:6-7):

“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”

I don’t for one moment think he meant that exactly, he like Jesus later on, was using parables to share his message. Isaiah was saying that, when Christ comes, things will be different. When Christ comes… but that will be after Advent. For now we live in faith and in hope. But we need also to be ready: reminded of our baptism, and forgiven for when we get all grubby again. Because we do. We fall, we stumble, we roll around in the dirt, and John saw that if we do live in hope and are washed then we can make way for the new, no matter who we are, no matter how old we are, no matter what we are doing, no matter how we look or what we say.

But it can seem sometimes as though we have all got a bit grubby. Every week we say sorry, and we are forgiven by God for all that grubbiness. But, like clean sheets, like a tidy kitchen, like a freshly mown lawn: things need to be attended to. When we are forgiven by God, God knows it will need to be done again. That is what our faith teaches us. But it doesn’t stop there, with our weekly confession and absolution. At Advent we can use the time to pause and reflect upon what our life as Christians means: to God and to us. At advent, as well as washing the sheets, tidying the kitchen and mowing the lawn, we hold onto the hope that in our life with Jesus we can find ways to know God in our lives.

We hope, in faith, that:

“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”

And as ever, it starts in this moment: right now. We hope for things, for changes, for well, what…? What dow e hope for?

Take a moment, a moment of kairos to pray for those things of hope in our lives.

  • The things that cause upset
  • The things that bring
  • The things that create conflict
  • The things that bring us to harsh words
  • The things that make us grubby

This week: in your moments of kairos, hope for the world. Pray for hope to break out in everyone.

It is in hope that we make our faith real.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.