As an avid gardener, I know the excitement and joy of new beginnings every spring. But I’m also aware that things are stirring in my garden even in the dead of winter. This is how it was when Mary was “found with child” and Joseph struggled with what he should do. The birth of this child would forever change their lives. Like them, we’re invited to say goodbye to a world that’s ending in order to say hello to God’s new world coming.
The Advent theme of “joy” is complicated by the underlying despair in our scripture texts and in our world. Advent joy is not a fake happiness but rather a joy that is deeper than the good times and the bad times that life metes out. Such joy lies in God and strengthens us in our love for the world.
Isaiah’s vivid dream, in which all manner of animals live in peace and are led by a child, inspires our imaginations. Paul’s letter to the Romans then brings our dreams of peace down to all the messy stuff of human relationships. In Christ, we are enabled to reach out beyond our church fellowship to become a community of reconciliation.
Advent is a time of waiting, but what are we waiting for? The prophet Isaiah envisions a world at peace where all will be eager to walk in God’s paths. Can we even imagine a world without violence and war? In Matthew 24, Jesus keeps repeating the admonition to keep awake and watch in the midst of suffering and social chaos. Being shaken out of our comfort zone may be necessary for change to happen. We need the call to stay awake but we also need a hope-filled vision of God’s new world coming—something we can give our hearts and lives to.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I’m especially grateful for public school teachers who put so much energy into helping their students flourish and into extra efforts to meet the needs of the disadvantaged in our community. I’m also so grateful for our church’s generous support of my ministry that has enabled me to minister outside the walls of our church in various efforts to improve the lives of people in our community. This is an example of how Jesus guides us on the path of peace (Luke 1: 79).