Advent is a time of waiting.
Most of us do not like to wait.
We want things done in our time, on our schedule.
But waiting is what we must do all the time.
We must wait for others to get their acts together.
We must wait for ourselves to be ready.
And in advent we wait for God to come.
We wait for Christ to come during Christmas so we can remember the light that comes from the Christ child so we can remember our salvation, but we also wait for Christ to come again.
We wait for the world to be made right, for our tears to be wiped away, for justice and peace.
Why do we have to wait?
What is the point to all of this waiting?
Why doesn’t God just fix everything all ready?
This morning and for the rest of advent we are going to talk about four spiritual principles represented by the four advent candles.
Today’s candle represents hope.
Hope is all about waiting.
Hope is about waiting in this in between time we live in, when Christ has already come to light the way to save us.
And yet hope is about waiting for the final day of God to bring forth life, justice, and peace.
So during advent we wait for what God will do next.
And we have hope that it will bring forth Justice, Righteousness, salvation, and safety.
In this morning’s reading from Jeremiah the people of Israel are about to be captured and killed by King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
In the midst of their waiting for their final destruction Jeremiah offers them words of hope.
That despite the hardships they will face, despite the destruction, and dislocation of their lives they can still count on God to remain faithful to them.
“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
How many of us are waiting for something to happen?
How many of you feel lost, forsaken, broken, out of sorts?
We know that in this last year many people have lost their jobs, some have lost their homes, lost people they love, and lost things that seem precious to them.
What we have in these times is something very important.
It is hope.
It is a hope that is secure and true.
I ask you today do you believe in hope?
Do you believe that God will be faithful even among the ruins of life, even when the enemy is at your door, and all seems lost?
Let us talk about hope from a perspective of faith.
We know that Hope is one of the great pillars of our faith, “for hope, faith, and love abide…” St. Paul tells us.
But what is hope?
It is not optimism.
Optimism is a psychological term that is used to describe how we see situations, or want certain outcomes.
There is nothing wrong with optimism, but it is missing something that is essential in hope.
Hope is the more than simply seeing the world through rose colored glasses it is a belief in a better day and is certain of the outcome.
Jeremiah can give the people of Israel hope that God will rise up a righteous branch, because Jeremiah knows what God has already done.
Jeremiah knows that God created the world; he knows that God saved Noah and his family; he knows that God saved the people of Israel from slavery and led them to the Promised Land; Jeremiah knows that God anointed Saul, David, and Solomon, Jeremiah knew that God would not abandon God’s people.
You see Hope is based on past experience and understanding that God is good to God’s people.
It does not mean that everything is always going to turn out fine and dandy.
Hope is rooted into the reality of the situation, but still is able to see beyond and through it.
Notice that Jeremiah does not promise Israel that they will be saved from the destruction about to be brought on them by the Babylonians.
You see an optimist would look at the Babylonian captivity and say, “Well, at least we are still alive, and get to eat.”
What Jeremiah says is different it says that we can count on God to see us through and overcome this situation.
We have hope in our God who has been good to us since the beginning of creation.
I see this all the time in when people of faith reach the end of their lives.
They are on their death bed, they know that the end is coming, and they say they are ready.
Because their hope is in God, who gave his Son to die for us.
Their hope is in God who will rise them up, and who has concurred death.
In these days of jobs loss, death, and all sorts of worries, fears, and calamities are we hopeful?
Are we expecting Jesus Christ to come?
Perhaps that is why we wait.
Waiting teaches us hope.
It teaches to us to rely on God in the dark, lost, and broken times.
So that when Jesus does come we will know and recognize him.
And we need Jesus to come.
We need Jesus to come into our lives that are broken, lost, and just a little unnerved.
What we don’t need is another book telling us to look on the bright side of life.
What we don’t need is optimism that fades with the first sign of real trouble.
We need Hope.
We need Christ.
I had a friend who was a non practicing Jew.
She once asked me if life was easier if you had faith.
“No” I said, “You still have all of the heartaches of life. People still die. Bad things happen to you and the ones you love. Life is not easier. But you have a way to deal with those things. You have a hope that without faith is not there.”
It is the hope of Jeremiah, of Jesus, and of the church.
That despite what happens in our life Christ will come.
I can tell you today that in my life God has always been faithful to me.
When I was facing dark days, lonely days, destructive days God got me through.
And it is with that insight that I face new challenges and new days.
I remember the first time I faced death in my life.
My paternal Grandfather died when I was in college.
It was devastating to me.
I went into a tail spin.
Forget that we all knew it would happen sooner rather then later.
It was my first taste of death.
I did not know what to do.
I got lost, and the world got dark.
Many bad things happened to me in those days.
I don’t even know if I knew at the time what was happening.
What I know now is that God got me through.
I came to understand death in a whole different way.
I saw the gateway to eternal life as well as the pain it inflicts.
It prepared me for other dark times, and other losses.
Those where just as painful but I was able to remain hopeful and see God’s saving hand better.
I saw Jesus in the midst of death, and grew in faith.
I still wait for the day when death will be no more.
When we will not have to face the darkness, the loss, or the pain.
But until that time we wait with hope in a God who has brought us through.
In this advent season we wait.
We wait for the end to all of life’s heartache, pain, death, and destruction.
We wait for Christ to come to take away our pain.
We wait for Christ to come into our hearts.
But we do not wait in vain for we always have hope.
A hope based on what God has already done for us.
A hope that gives us life in the midst of death and destruction.
A hope that tells us of a wonderful and magnificent God who gets us through the dark times, the lost times, and brings us to life and safety.
May we continue to hope in God who brings a righteous branch out to save us all.