The season of Advent seems to always begin in darkness. Our days grow shorter with seemingly less and less light from our sun. Our weather forecasters grimly report two less minutes of daylight each day as the winter solstice approaches. And our worship services include equally grim scripture passages, like this one; yes there is an advent of something new and expectant about to happen…”the arrival of something important or awaited”…the coming of Christ. But, while we hope for the infant Jesus, these recorded words of Jesus Christ, our proclaimed Savior, in Luke’s gospel seem to point to an end rather than to the kind of a new beginning a baby’s birth signals.
Somehow, the holidays…those holy days of Thanksgiving and Christmas raise up within us feelings of conflicting emotions. Happiness and joy trying to push past the losses we’ve experienced through the year; the conflicts in our personal lives with family members erupting over one incident or another all of which can make a dinner table feel more like a battleground. The expectations surrounding the holidays are all around us as we hear them filtered to us through media, store advertisements and our own childish memories of a real or wished for experience of joy. All this comes up against the anguishes of a broken world and the inner brokenness in our own lives.
Luke’s gospel with its words of warning, cautionary expectation and hope move us to see our needs most clearly. We are a country filled with anguish over the ways people treat one another. We are a nation torn apart by fear and unfortunately, lingering and perhaps even increasing prejudice against people of a different color, life style, or faith affiliation. We live in a world battered by endless wars, which seem pointless and petty. We struggle with our anxiety about health threats and the possibility of a pandemic outbreak that can’t be contained by our known medical miracles.
We are a world of the haves and have nots – too often ruled by politicians out for their own gain and self-interest and profit, church leaders who fail us and fail God. And, of course, we struggle with our concerns, concerns we may share but, than again, we might not. Perhaps right now, in this congregation there are some among you facing a loss, battling an illness, warring with a spouse over money, the kids, jobs, and the condition of your marriage. Some may be considering divorce; some have already decided there is no way to repair the relationship, no way to take back the words thrown at one another in anger. An outside these walls, we know there are children and their parents, grandparents, and whole families who are living in extreme conditions without necessary food, clean water, shelter or sanitation. So, where might we find hope?
The New Testament, especially the Gospel narratives promise hope. And they are there in the words we read in Luke’s gospel reading this morning. Christ offers words of hope as he prepares his disciples for the advent of a new age. He begins by describing the many, many new changes, which will come into the world. And, he tells them and thus we, who overhear, there is a promise fulfilled by his life, one that assures them and us that “not a hair of your head will perish.” Certainly, it’s a hard sell for any that live in fear, so Christ tries to help the disciples push past their fear and embrace the hope his very life and ministry has given the world.
From these words and others, we know there are ways to use the suffering we experience to reach a courageous place where hope can survive and live. We have witnessed such courage and such hopeful assurances in our own lives and in the lives of others. When we place our hope in Christ, the gain is our very souls. Heidi Neumark who is a Lutheran pastor writes about her own ministry experiences in the tough Bronx neighborhood in which she served. She says:
“Probably the reason I love Advent so much is that it is a reflection of how I feel most of the time. I might not feel sorry during Lent, when the liturgical calendar begs repentance. I might not feel victorious, even though it is Easter morning. I might not feel full of the Spirit, even though it is Pentecost and the liturgy spins out fiery gusts of ecstasy. But during Advent, I am always in sync with the season.
Advent unfailingly embraces and comprehends my realty. And what is that? I think of the Spanish word anhelo or longing. Advent is when the church can no longer contain its unfulfilled desire and the cry of anhelo bursts forth: Maranatha – [Ma-ra-na-tha]! Come Lord Jesus! O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
This morning a coin and a card were given to each of you, a reminder of yet another Luke passage. Christ used the image of a lost coin as a way to help us recognize or lost condition. He describes in this wonderful parable the persistent efforts of the owner of the lost coin sweeping up her home, searching in every corner, lighting a lamp to illumine the darkness, all in pursuit of a coin, which in and of itself is small and not worth much except for the value placed upon it by the woman. Very much like God, our lives have value because God has assigned us a value far beyond what we, in and of ourselves, could expect. Yet, God has given us value, has placed in our hearts an unfailing hope in our Savior God. We are found because God never gives up on us. And just as the woman lit her lamp to search for her lost coin, we light a candle…the candle of Hope remembering our very lives are made worthy and of value in God’s ever-present love for us. Through Christ, we are set free. Come Lord Jesus! O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! Amen.
 Dictionary definition, Word:mac.
 Feasting on the Word, Advent Companion, Heidi Neumark, 14.