Advent, Reflectionary

Unknown Hope

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Matthew 24:36

Advent begins with Jesus asking us to hold onto hope in an unknown: God’s change is coming, but we don’t know when. We are at risk of missing it when it does arrive because we are sleepy, or distracted, or too busy with the work in front of us to notice anything else. 

We might expect Jesus to be in the know on things of major importance, but that’s not what he tells the disciples. He believes God will make some kind of change in the status quo, but he admits he doesn’t know when, even though it revolves around him. I wonder how sure Matthew’s Jesus is about his status. Does he wonder whether he has accomplished what he came to do? Will any of this matter to anyone in the long run? 

I’m reminded of those uncomfortable times in my life when I knew something – a job, a relationship, a particular sense of identity I held – was coming to an end. Even when I knew the ending was appropriate, I felt uneasy, unsure of how life would change and who I would be on the other side. 

That feels to me like the apocalyptic dynamic of our time, the worry people of faith carry with them. We thought we knew what it meant to be God’s people. We had an idea of what we hoped God might do. But given the state of the world, we may wonder how we once managed to be so sure, why it is taking God so long to set things right, and whether there is something we need to do, right now, to make things better. 

As Advent begins, may we sit in the discomfort with Jesus, on the edge of what is coming next.

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Advent, Hymns

Advent Carol – Now It’s Time to Light the Candle

(PDF with music available here)

Now it’s time to light the candle,
Soon God’s promise will be here.
Young and old we wait together
For the Savior drawing near.

Light will overcome the darkness:
See the hope the Christ Child brings.

Now it’s time to light the candle,
Messengers prepare the way.
Wolf and lamb lie down together;
Righteousness marks God’s new day.

Light will overcome the darkness:
Live the peace the Christ Child brings.

Now it’s time to light the candle,
In God’s name we will rejoice.
Bells and organ play together,
We will shout in one loud voice!

Light will overcome the darkness:
Sing the joy the Christ Child brings.

Now it’s time to light the candle,
Shining love in Jesus’ name.
When all people join together
Earth will never be the same.

Light will overcome the darkness:
Be the love the Christ Child brings.

~Martha Spong, 2015 – try REGENT SQUARE for a bright tune (PDF at link), PICARDY for a more contemplative option

Permission is given to use in worship; please leave a comment saying where you are.

Advent, Hope, Prayers for Pastors

Our Hope (a prayer for pastors and everyone else)

On the way home from Thanksgiving,
we passed a white church,
with that sign you sometimes see,
“We preach Christ crucified.”
And usually I smugly comment,
*I* preach Christ resurrected.
So I did.


But as the road continued to bend,
as we moved from strip malls
where we stopped for coffee,
to park land we admired,
to cornfields seemingly unending,
to the crossroads where
a young Amish man stood
on an old-school Segway,
a primitive chariot,
pulled by horses
dragging a sledge of hay,
I thought about that sign.


Crucified, resurrected,
Jesus, those are both ways
you leave us,
moments that disconnect you,
take you down into the dark of death,
or raise you beyond our limits,
beyond our capacity to touch and know.


We preach christ incarnate
Not an actual church sign.

I need to preach Christ incarnate,
I thought,
touchable, knowing, enfleshed.
What other hope do we have?
Is our hope in forgiveness
of the long lists of wrongs
done by us, done to us?
Is our hope in the vision
of life renewed,
or life beyond this world?
How do these hopes help us
in a season of darkness,
of grieving our losses,
despairing of our future,
identifying our wrongs
against God and each other?


We need the embodied God
who walked the earth
who healed the lame
who ate with sinners
who told his stories
and electrified the crowds
but alarmed the authorities
and turned the world upside down
without wielding a sword,
or carrying a gun,
whose life was an action,
political and spiritual,
but most of all human.


We need you, Jesus.
You are our hope,
then and now.
O come,