Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hope Is Not Hard Anymore

“It is hard to feel hopeful.”
I heard this at a meeting I attended this week.
It encapsulated for me how I have been feeling.
I really wanted to know why.
I wanted to understand what is happening with us that is making hope so hard.

Part of it for me is exhaustion.
Not that I am physically tired.
I just have nothing left to give.
I have no more energy to be outraged.
I have no more energy left to mourn.
I have no more energy left to feel things that happen.
There is just too much, too much bad news, too much violence, too much bad behavior.
And there is too many of us that want to dismiss it.
Or there is too many of us that want us to be outraged at every little thing.
I am exhausted.
And it is has left me spiritually spent.

I wonder if you are all feeling this way too.
Do you feel exhausted?
I hear it a lot from people.
How tired they are.

This week I read a couple of articles that were tilted, “how to survive the Christmas season.”
These articles are written advice from, mostly women, on how to try to get through Christmas.
That is how life feels most days, about survival.
About checking off things we have to get done.
We believe that when we get it all done we will feel better.
Or if our families have just the perfect Christmas experience it will all be worth it.
Truth is that all it does is leaves us exhausted.

What is the way out of our malaise?
I actually think that the Gospel of Mark is perfect for a time such as this.
Mark is a different Gospel than Matthew.
Matthew is about not being complacent in our lives of faith.
Mark is about an unveiling of God’s action among us.
It is about God breaking through the heavens to enter a fallen humanity.
It is about our need to be saved!
“Come and Save us”
We need saving.
I need saving.
We need saving from ourselves, from the constant rush from this crisis to the next.
Mark is written in a time of crisis for the Christian community.
A time when they feel that the world is coming apart, and they don’t know what to do.
Mark’s answer today is to, “keep awake”.
We get our of our doldrums by looking for the heavens to open, for the Lord to come.

Our answer has to be to see through the ridiculous nature of the world.
Our politics has robbed us of our ability to talk to each other.
Our financial system has robbed us of our ability to feel secure.
Our world is robbing us of our souls.
We are becoming exhausted shells of ourselves, not knowing where to go or what do to.

Christmas is a great example.
We are nervous about Christmas.
We are worried about being with our families because what if uncle mel talks about politics.
We are worried about spending too much of what we don’t have.
We are worried that it won’t be perfect, like the advertisers tell us it has to be.
We are worried that we won’t get the Christmas spirit.

I have to admit that part of my feeling this way come from the fact that my kids are not as much into Christmas as I want them to be.
They used to beg me to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving.
I wouldn’t allow it.
But as soon as Thanksgiving was over we could listen to and sing Christmas music again.
And they would rejoice every time.
My daughter Phoebe said to me, “Why are you so into Christmas? Can’t you give it a break?”
My son wanted us to get a fake tree this year!
Instead of continuing our yearly tradition of picking one out from the lot at Arnie’s, he wanted to get a fake one!

But I have to let go.
One very wise woman said to me recently, “Our Children teach us to let go of our idols.”
I have more idols than I thought I had.
And this is my other secret for this season.
We have to let go of our idols, and look to the heaven, because God is coming.
God rips opens the heavens and enters our world as a defenseless baby.
God rips opens the heavens and tells us that world is a sham.
That we have given over our lives to false idols.
We have given it over to the idol of perfect.
We have given it over to the idol of political ideologies.
We have given it over to the idol that we can do everything, and be everywhere.

And when all that is stripped away, when all of our pretense and false security is gone.
At that place we find true hope, because we begin to hope in the only thing that is left, God.

This is has been my biggest problem for years.
I have been hoping in the wrong things.
I have been hoping in human progress.
I have been hoping in the idea that life gets better.
That we get better, the idea that I can build my life better.
If I only have a real tree every year, life will be as it should be.
My kids will love the tradition.
It will be like it was when I was a kid.
If only I can make my Christmas Eve sermon the best it has ever been, those people that only come once a year will start coming regularly.

What is it for you?
What are the idols of your life do you cling to, hope in.

The good news from Mark’s Gospel is that God is coming to rip those things away.
That in this moment of crisis God is creating in all of us new things.
God is making moon and sun dark, the stars fall from the heavens.
God is forming us in this state into something else.
God is moving us away from our worries to be able to dance with joy in God.
God is the potter, we are the clay.
God is forming us through all of this.
Can we celebrate and feel that this Christmas.

Christmas isn’t something we survive, it is something that shapes us, forms us, because the God and ruler of the universe has crossed the lines of heaven and earth.
God has brought us something new and extraordinary.
God has ripped apart our idols.
And in its place built us back up as people that have a soul and spirit, not just flesh and blood.
Then the traditions seem less important, perfection seems impossible, and hope is not hard anymore.

I wish for you this season a ripping apart of your idols.
A spiritual awakening of your soul, that leads you back to hope in the God who came to be with us in Jesus Christ!