I'm hoping that putting my thoughts into today's post will help me get a start on this week's sermon. So far the texts have been simmering in my mind while I've read some very good commentaries. Leonard Beechy wrote very good stuff for Christian Century's Reflections, "Living The Word". These Advent One texts are not what people expect. I decided to preach them in agreement with what Beechy wrote, 'The outlandish language of apocalypse is for people like us."
Signs of time to come are all around us, Jesus said. Fig trees or any tree tell the story of what is to come. He saw the sign of his own destruction and like prophets before him, he saw the sign of Jerusalem's destruction. To this day Jesus 'sees' the sign of our destruction. We make our own destruction imminent when we vote for policies that legislate inequality. The sign of the ever widening gap better haves and have nots is as visible as a tree in leaf. The sign of people desperate for health care and willing to do anything to get medical attention for their sick family members couldn't be more visible. In fact the only less visible sign is that of war; a war we've been in longer than WWII. Even though it hasn't been 'in our face' it kills and destroys while we continue to suffer as we pay for it. What is wrong with this picture? Everything.
Where do we find hope in our world or in these texts? The signs of Jesus' advent are mixed in with the push to purchase Christmas gifts and stimulate the economy. The sign that God has entered into humanity in the form of a child, the weakest most vulnerable creature on earth is a promise to us still. There is hope in each person who faces another day and says I will make a difference in my world, even if it doesn't seem like much to others. Each person who offers aid, disaster relief or effort on a work camp gives us a positive sign. I believe that each recycled bottle helps to save the world. I believe that we graduate to larger acts of compassion from little ones and that each loving act helps to change us as much as others.
There is hope this Christmas because I am part of a community that works hard to reach out to people in need, locally and nationally. People who respond with care and compassion are signs of the times for me. I see the trees around me budding with leaves in the midst of winter and these signs are at the center of my hope. Jesus' people ARE signs of what can be. They- you, are my hope.