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The Second Sunday in Advent

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, Broad Cove, LaHave  – December 9, AD 2007

Romans 15:4-13     Luke 21:25-33

 

When these things begin to come to pass, then look up,

and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh.

 

We have entered the season of Advent – of quiet expectation.  It is a season for the renewal, the rekindling, of hope. 

 

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

 

What is hope?

 

One poet describes it like this:

Hope, … is certainty of bliss

To come, which God by grace to us concedes

And for our previous merit promises.           [Dante, Paradiso xxv, 67-69]

 

It is one of the three theological virtues – faith, hope and charity – it “may be defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain.”

 

Our hope can be natural, worldly, or our hope can be supernatural, spiritual.  And in Advent we are reminded that, just as last week, our loves will be judged, so this week, our hopes will come under judgement.

 

The world hopes in the things of this life only – whether it be health, wealth, power, success in worldly affairs, or even the success of earthly kingdoms.  All of these things will fade in time.  Young people, with a whole life ahead of them, often have much of this kind of hope – and yet it is not a hope which endures.  It is a hope which even if fulfilled leaves one still wanting, and when it is no longer possible to fulfill leads to despair. [Joseph Pieper, Hope]

 

But St. Paul does just pray that we should abound in hope, period, but that we might abound in a a certain kind of hope, a supernatural hope.  He prays that we might abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

 

The Christian hope has an opposite quality to worldly hope.  We have little of it when we are young and our faith is feeble, but it grows as a gift, as we begin to turn our minds and hearts to the eternal promises of God – to the hope of salvation, the expectation of bliss, the beatific vision of God, the union of our souls with God in a mystical marriage.  [Joseph Pieper, Hope]  As we age, as we begin to lose our health, to trust less in worldly wealth, if we are believers our hope is transformed.  We long for the things that endure forever, we see that God and our neighbour are most important.  Worship of God becomes most important, because only God is worthy of worship.  Our connections with family – especially if they are Christian connections – and our friendship with others Christians, a friendship grounded upon the same supernatural hopes, become most important.

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What about the judgement of our hopes?

 

Our Gospel today Jesus speaks of end times, of a kind of apocalypse:

There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh. 

 

Then Jesus says, Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

 

So he seems to begin speaking about the end times, His second coming, but then he also speaks of its fulfillment in each generation.

 

The trials and tribulations of this life, that each of us know and face – distress, perplexity, the crashing waves of our inner turmoil, our hearts failing us for fear of what is next – these experiences are to be understood as moments of judgement of what is truly important to us, it is a judgement of our hopes.  And Jesus says, at that moment, it is for us, as His followers, to look lift up our heads, knowing that our redemption draweth nigh.  Our hopes are being purified in the fire of adversity.  A youthfulness returns to us, as we become unconcerned about the dashing of worldly hopes or of the fulfilling worldly hopes, and we are renewed in our hope of the life of eternity which is stretched out or opened up before us.  We no longer envy the young, full of worldly hopes and possibilities, but we encourage them quietly, maybe even mischievously, to look up also, to know the supernatural hope, the eternal youth, the eternal liveliness, that comes only from God.

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How is this supernatural hope kindled in us?  How can we get a booster shot of this gift from above?

 

St. Paul says,

WHATSOEVER things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we, through patience, and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.

 

Then he goes on to list quotations from Deuteronomy (from the Law), from the Psalms (the writings) and from Isaiah (the Prophets).  In other words, he shows a consistent message throughout what he knew then of the Scriptures – the Old Testament – showing God’s fulfillment of promises of salvation to both Jew and Gentile through Jesus Christ.

 

When we read the Bible, regularly, our worldly hopes come under continual judgement.  When we see the worldliness of Israel condemned by God in the prophets, we reflect on our own lives.  When we see the bright beams of heavenly promises of a coming Messiah, we are reminded of where our hope lies.  When we read of the purity of heart and the vision of true love revealed in Jesus and His apostles we remember that we are not there yet, but are still on our journey of growing in holiness – our hope is renewed.  When we read the promises held out to us of future glory, our hope brings us through the darkest of times. 

 

We don’t trust in the words of the Bible themselves as if they were our salvation, but they point us to the Word Incarnate – Jesus Christ – who is our salvation.

 

Think of the suggested daily Bible readings, in the table on the back of your bulletins, as our booster shot in hope.

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Of course our hope is also renewed and perfected as we gather here Sunday by Sunday, to hear God’s word read and spoken about.  Here we reflect on the promises that God’s word contains and our hope is rekindled. 

 

And here, in the Holy Communion, we are reminded that our God is a God of patience and consolation – He will forgive all our sins and assure us as we partake of His Body and Blood that we are living members of His mystical body…and heirs through hope of [His] everlasting Kingdom.

 

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

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