Here are my thoughts for the First Sunday in Advent.
The other day I was asked how I would explain the existence of God to a five-year old. Obviously, the best and simplest answer is to say that God was, is, and will always be. God was here at the beginning and He will be here at the end. We read in Genesis and know that this earth, however long it took to form and become what it is today, and us, again no matter how long it took for us to become who we are today, was created because God wanted to make it. So it seems as if God was here before we were and He will be here a long time after we are gone.
But for some people today, there is no such thing as God. They are quite willing to put all of their resources and all of their thoughts into explaining life in terms of empirical evidence and reasoning. There is no room in their lives for a God. Now, I am one who also believes in the empirical evidence. I believe that our world is several billion years old and the process of life is driven by evolution. But this does not mean that I have ruled out the existence of God.
First of all, nothing in the cosmology of the universe tells us why this universe was created and, second, nothing in the cosmology of the universe tells us how it got started. From that standpoint, one must take certain things on faith.
Those who live without God live only in the moment. There can be no tomorrow in their lives because they have nothing in which to put their hopes. To live without hope is to live without a plan. When Alice came to the crossroads, she asked the Cheshire Cat, “Which road should I take?”
The cat asked here where she was going and when Alice replied that she had no idea, he replied that any road will do. Without hope, without a plan, we cannot do more than simply wander aimlessly from day to day. It is that way when we do not have God in our lives. But God is presently in this world, trying to change things, and trying to use each one of us to make those changes.
But however we do it, we must discover God. If we are to have hope for the future, it will be because we believe in God and we know that God will provide that hope. We are the ones who have to look for Him, not the other way around. And, when we have found God, it is up to us to show the presence of God to others. In essence, this is what Paul is writing to the Thessalonians and to us today. (1) Paul notes that the Thessalonians have endured many problems because of their faith and he encourages them to maintain their faith in spite of all those problems. Just as Christ told his disciples that they would be identified by their love for one another (2), so too does Paul hope that the same love would shine through the lives of the Thessalonians.
In today’s Gospel reading (3), Jesus speaks of the signs of His second coming. He speaks of signs that people will fear. But He also speaks of signs of hope and promise. Is not the budding of the fig tree in the spring a sign of hope for the summer? In a world where we are more than willing to put our hope and faith in the things that we buy and covet, is not the promise that Jesus said in verse 33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away”, (4) a sign of hope, a sign that we have something better?
That is what Advent is all about; it is the time when the promise is fulfilled. It is a time when Jesus will be coming. It is a time of better things to come. The birth of Jesus once again reminds us that, in the darkness, there is a promise. In the coldness of the winter, there is warmth.
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the hope that God provides when he proclaimed that the days are coming. (5) These were words of hope written to a nation cast away from their home and without the prospect of immediate return. These words were spoken to a nation without hope, without a plan. But they were words of hope; words that the promises made to the fathers of the nation would be kept. These are words that echo true today. At a time when the prophecy of nation rising against nation and brother turning against brother, at a time when natural disasters seem to an everyday occurrence, at a time when many people say these are the end times, the words of Jeremiah ring true. The days are coming when God will renew the promises made so long ago.
As we begin the Advent season, as we prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ, let us make these the days of hope. In a world of darkness, hatred, and fear, let us by our preparation makes these hopeful times. As we prepare for the coming of Christ, let us offer signs and words of hope so that those who are seeking will find.
(2) John 13: 35
(3) Luke 21: 25 – 36
(4) Luke 21: 36
(5) Jeremiah 33: 14 – 19