Waiting in hope
Leonid Brezhnev was the chairman of the soviet central committee for almost 20 years. He was one of the great powers in the secular atheistic culture of the Soviet Union. At his funeral, his widow offered a silent protest. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: There in the sanctuary of secular, atheistic power she reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest.
The wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. And she placed that hope in Jesus Christ. HOPE
Eugene Land transformed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem. Mr. Land, a self-made millionaire, had been asked to speak to a class of 59 sixth-graders. What could he say to inspire these students? Statistics said most would drop out of school. Many would end up in prison. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. "Stay in school," he admonished, "and I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you." At that moment, the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school. One student said, "For the first time ever, I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling." They had… (What) HOPE.
The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their schoolwork during stays in the city's hospitals. One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child's name and room number and talked briefly with the child's regular class teacher. "We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now," the regular teacher said, "and I'd be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn't fall too far behind."
The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, "I've been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs." When she left, she felt she hadn't accomplished much.
However, the next day, a nurse asked her, "What did you do to that boy?" The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. "No, no," said the nurse. "You don't understand. We've been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live."
Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?" Suddenly he had (what?)... HOPE.
We light the first candle of the advent wreath today. The candle of hope. Courageous, transforming, life-giving hope. But what does that have to do with advent? Advent is about time. It is about Chronos which is the time we understand which is linear regular and predictable. Advent Chronos marks the four Sundays before Christmas.
Advent, however, it is also about Kairos. Kairos is the time between the present and the fulfillment of time at some indeterminate time in the future. It is the time between the present reality and the fulfilled promise. It is holy time, expectant time, hopeful time, anticipatory time. Chronos is about measuring what has been. Kairos is about living into what is to come. In Kairos Advent is not about the four Sundays before Christmas. In Kairos, advent marks the in between time. The time between this mundane, ordinary time and the day, when all time will be filled full of God’s meaning.
What is this Advent hope?
First, Hope is bold. Think about Mrs. Brezhnev’s hopeful action.
At that time in soviet history, it was only a dangerous wish.
At that time in world history is was an empty dream.
In God’s time, it spoke of her faith and her hope in the one God of all people and all nations.
Hope is not timid. Hope does not hide quietly in a corner minding its own business. It is boldly out there for everyone to see.
In God’s time, it is time let true justice roll down for both the prisoner and the victim. In God’s time, it is time to boldly raise the banner of hope that tomorrow will be different. Because it will. Not by our own power, but In God’s power. Advent Hope is a BOLD hope.
Hope is REALISTIC.
Think about the millionaire’s offer to pay tuition.
In ghetto time that was crazy. Who would do such a thing?
In our time it is generous, but a little over the top.
In God’s time it made a dream those kids never hoped to have become real. It was not an empty challenge, but a real possibility. It turned the dream into hope by making it realistic.
When I say hope is realistic, I don’t mean that it should be easy. I don’t mean that we should be conservative in our hoping. I do mean that hope creates a new reality. Christian hope is based not in the reality of our world, but in the reality of God’s power and the reality of God’s grace.
Our advent hope then is no mere pipe dream. It is no fantasy. Our advent hope is not one that fits our current reality, but it shapes it and makes a whole new divine reality right here in our lives. Advent hope is REALISTIC.
Finally, advent hope is TRANSFORMATIVE.
Think about the boy in the hospital.
In his chronos time, his life was over, he would die.
In the nurse’s time, there was little hope for the boy.
In steps the teacher with the most mundane of goals and chronos time is transformed into kairos time. The boy grows hope. The expectation of death was transformed into hope for healing. The nurse’s bleak prognosis was transformed into a hopeful future. All because of nouns and Adjectives? NO, because of hope.
. Advent hope is TRANSFORMATIVE.
Advent Hope is bold
Advent Hope is realistic
Advent Hope is transformative.
Won’t you hope with me this advent?
Stand up this season and boldly hope not for a great sale at the story, but boldly hope in God’s promises.
Stand up this season in to say “NO!” this is not the way things have to be. Bravely usher in the new reality of God’s power really present in our world.
Stand up this season to witness to the amazing transformative power of God’s love and God’s presence in our world.
Let’s hope together. Boldly, realistically, transormatively.
A number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water for just a moment and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!
Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them.
Certainly, we are not rats in a tub. If we are without hope, however, we are not far from it. Watch for God this Advent for reach down and lift you into hope. A glimpse here and glimpse there may be all we get. But that’s OK because that’s all we need.
Hope boldly, realistically, transformatively.