Summary: The coming of the Christ was the arrival into this hopeless world of a boundless hope all wrapped up in one wonderful life.
Sermon - November 28, 2004 - Advent I - “A Boundless Hope”
THE PROBLEM: Proclamation I - Isaiah 8:18-22
18 Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.
It seems like there are a lot of things going on all the time that suggest despair.
War suggests despair. Poverty suggests despair. Loneliness and broken relationships suggest despair. And from one way of looking at it, despair is a fitting response to a world gone mad.
Despair is a plot device in a lot of movies and tv that we watch. The story has progressed, we’ve gotten to know and care about the characters. They’ve come to a tense standoff.
The battle is about to rage or has already been raging for some time. Despair is that part in a well-
written movie where try as you might, you can’t see a way for the good guys to get out of the mess they’re in.
Despair says, “Hope is lost”. Despair says, “Hope is for fools!” Despair says “That great big world out there needs to be shut out!”
Despair can have a fresh, contemporary feel to it - there seems to be no end to the new ways people suffer in our world - new wars, new diseases, new injustice - but the truth is, despair has always been a companion on the human journey.
Despair can have a unique and individualized feel to it...no one has been you through these precise circumstances before. But even though we’re sure, at our lowest times, that noone can know how dark it is down here, we have a world full of fellow travellers. Fellow sufferers.
So we’re in good company. Out first reading today just touched on a big theme in the Old Testament. The OT can be summarized as the story of the growing, relentless suffering of humanity. Suffering at the hands of oppressors.
Suffering at the hands of people of bad character. Suffering at the hands of self. Groping around in darkness, the people of the Old Testament, as Isaiah says, “ look(ed) toward the earth and (saw) only
distress and darkness and fearful gloom....”
So we are not alone in our despair. When another teen is shot in our community we are not alone; when another child is aborted in our neighbourhood he or she is not alone; when the rent is due and despite our best efforts and long hours of work we’re late again and have received that final notice to move on, we are not alone.
In fact, our suffering and the resulting despair is something that unites us to the rest of humanity
past, present and future. It’s not a pleasant solidarity but it is a real solidarity. A grief that can remind us that we are all connected.
And the problem with despair is that it is real. Despair is a fitting response to a life without hope.
As a teen raised with zero knowledge of God, I reached the point where I knew that life was
meaningless and empty and devoid of purpose.
And people I talked to could never offer a better definition of life. They just said, “O, stop being
so negative”. But they didn’t agree.
Until I met some freaky people who would have none of that way of thinking. Now, they didn’t try to convince me that I was wrong to think that way. I thank God they didn’t. But what they did do is point me, in my despair, to a solution to the problem of despair. The same hope that our brothers and sisters in OT times found. These freaky people were followers of Jesus. And they pointed me to the solution to despair.
THE PROMISE: Proclamation II - Isaiah 9:1-7
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan- 2 The people