Here we are again, dear sisters and brothers, at the beginning of the Christian year—with hopes and fears and sighs too deep for words. Much has happened in this past year: the shock of living in a world that perceives possible peril lurking around every corner; the reality of a swooning economy; the deaths of loved ones; transitions in leadership; and new questions about how to think about when religion becomes evil—be it Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. The celebration of Advent begins with the acknowledgement of human alienation from God and the drastic consequences of human sinfulness. Repentance must not be reserved only for Lent! The light of Christ shines both from the cradle and the cross, illumining the pathway for the people who walk in darkness.
Paul urges: “The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” (Romans 13: 12, The Message.) We are not to sleepwalk our way through the times of our lives. There is no greater lament than the person who realizes that there is no more opportunity to be reconciled with those wounded by careless words or actions; we are to recognize that limited time spurs us to act with urgency. Karl Barth reminds us that limited time is a gift—we can claim the space and time that is uniquely our own. We are to do the work that is ours to do, for God has left us each with our own tasks to discharge in hope.
These texts for the first Sunday of Advent speak of the hope that is grounded in God’s fidelity. Hope is that wonderfully resilient force that keeps us headed forward; remembrance gives perspective and, hopefully correction; hope keeps us moving into God’s future. It is part of what makes us like God, and we are to be awake to what God is doing. God is clothing believers with the “armor of light,” the very presence of Christ. In him we become luminaries that beckon others to waken to the “true light coming into the world.”
Molly T. Marshall
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