Our dining room table is piled high with seasonal decorations, most still in boxes, but we did manage to hang a string of lights around the kitchen window.
It feels like a slender thread, electric wire and bulbs, a pop of color with a little shine, casting a warm glow inside our home.
And it offers a moment of respite from the things still to do, the list of sermons to preach and prayers to offer and church decorations to find, not to mention the things left to do at home.
It’s not the first First Advent when Christmas has seemed impossibly distant, not in days (those will speed by, I know), but measured in hope. Less than a week ago, I wondered what bad news would come, would require mention in today’s sermon, and the world, as it does with sickening regularity, complied.
This week a man in Biloxi shot and killed a woman at the Waffle House when she told him to put out his cigarette. What is wrong with people? What makes us think a gun is the solution to a disagreement?
Other first Advents, I’ve preached about trampled shoppers, and hostages in Mumbai, and natural disasters, and the execution of young men, and the pervasive sin of racism, and acts of pure terror delivered not only by strangers but by our own countrymen. And it is hard to know where to find hope after this week’s additions in Minneapolis and Colorado Springs, this week’s reminders in Chicago, this month’s violence and terror in Mali, Beirut, Paris…
Where is our hope?
Our hope is in the Lord.
The words feel trite until we look deeper, uncover the stories, the stories of all the days Jesus walked among us, the subtle forms of threat used against him by the authorities. It feels trite until we remember that nothing they said or did stopped him from being the truth, the light, the hope that you will have ultimate victory over the death-dealers.
It feels distant, but I am holding on, even if a string of lights is all I have to bind me to your hope this morning. Help me preach it, Lord, I pray. Amen.