category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 4

Wednesday, December 2

Micah 5:1–5a; Luke 21:34–38 (NRSV)

Hope. Why is it important to cultivate hope while here on earth? Maybe a better question would be, What if we do not hope? Clement of Alexandria (c.155–c. 220) would say, “If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.” We certainly needed hopeful words in 2020, and still do, for 2021 is around the corner, and we wonder what challenges it will bring.

As a human race we are not the first to have such struggles. Back in the 8th c. B.C.E. the prophet Micah, from a country village in the outer reaches of Judah, proclaimed God’s word to the Israelites, who had done wrong and needed correction but also would not survive without hope in God. It is amazing how thousands of years later humanity still needs guidance and inspiration to let go of destructive patterns in order to embrace life giving possibilities.

What kind of hope is needed? For ancient Israelites, the recollection of God’s promise brought the hope that the throne of King David would be established forever (2 Sam 7:16). Although 8th c. Israelites from Judah were seeing the writing on the wall through threats of being taken over, they were uplifted when the prophet spoke of a leader rising from an insignificant place: “Bethlehem of Ephrathah,” or from “one of the little clans of Judah.” This one would make provisions, offer security, and promote peace. How could a lowly character act in such a powerful way? He would operate “in the strength of the LORD” or “in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God” (Micah 5:4). Hope then was not a human production but rather an action from God who judged but also forgave, saved, and brought victory.

The disciples during Jesus’ day also needed a word of hope. Their environment was equally disruptive through Roman rule and Pharisaic demands from within. And yet Jesus’ exhortations (Luke 21), if followed, could uplift and liberate: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed … and the worries of this life.” How could one be hopeful? “Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and so stand before the Son of Man” (vv. 34–36).

Preachers often say from the pulpit that the word being proclaimed is for them equally. It was no different for Jesus. He was under a legitimate life and death threat and yet never gave up teaching in the temple. What was his secret? “At night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives” (Luke 21:37). Doing what? Perhaps he was practicing what he preached. He was being alert and vigilant in prayer. No wonder the folks got up early in the morning and traveled to the temple to hear him (v. 38). Hopeful proclamation breeds an audience!

Hope. We do not have to live without it. This Advent season is here to refresh our memory and renew our hearts because of God’s promises fulfilled and the ones yet to come. Let‘s keep alert and prayerful. One of these days we won’t need hope anymore. But for now, we need it if we want to see what is beyond our hopes.

Sophia Steibel
Professor of Christian Education and Spiritual Formation

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Advent Reflection: Day 3

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