Summary: This sermon focuses on the hope of Advent. Our community suffered the devastation of Hurricane Michael and we spent 2019 reacting to the chaos. This series is an encouragement to turn the corner and find newness in God's hope and mercy.

Preparing for 2020: Living in Hope

1967. The Doors. The lyrics? “Come on baby, light my fire, Try to… set the night… on fire.”

I will begin something today that I’ve never done before, in addition to quoting the Doors in a sermon.

For Advent, I’m going to preach a sermon series. This congregation has taught me a liberating lesson, it’s okay for priests to be themselves. So, I will listen to my heart this Advent season. The next four Sundays I’m going to preach on the theme of Preparing for 2020.

Why that theme? Because 2019 brought transitions and redefinitions. As a parish, we said goodbye to a beloved rector and welcomed a new priest. On that note, I want to say how much I appreciate the welcome you have given me. We are blessed here.

The past year also brought a lot of new definitions. Hurricane Michael changed our lives and our communities forever. We’ve spent most 2019 trying to find a speck of normalcy. You’re probably like me, still working on your house or yard. The hurricane made many of us redefine our way of understanding life.

2019 was a year of much needed reacting and redefining. 2020 will be different. It presents the opportunity to turn our eyes in a new direction. Advent is a time of yearning, anticipating, and preparing. The spiritual nature of Advent speaks to the opportunities in front of us in 2020.

This sermon today is from Isaiah, and he lived in a dangerous time. —Anytime he turned on the TV, it was another natural disaster or a crazy court case where someone sued ducks for quacking, and a judge ruled they would not drive the ducks out of town—yes, that’s real if you’re wondering.

Anxiety filled Jerusalem because the Assyrian army was en route to lay siege. Yet there was a prophet preaching hope. “One day, men will no longer need swords. One day nations will not declare war. One day peace will reign from Zion.”

Isaiah was dramatic. My sermon isn’t quite as… strong… but none the less I believe in the power of hope. We light the hope candle today. My sermon today is Living in Hope.

Note it’s not titled living with hope. When I read the prophet, he allowed hope to define his views of the world.

The sermon begs a question: What exactly are the things we’re hoping for? As I read the lesson, a few things stood out:

We can live in hope for God’s Restoration.

I’m trying something new, but I’m also going to give up a bad Advent habit: I will not gripe about Christmas. Unlike my pastorally sensitive colleagues, I felt the need to tell people, “It’s still Advent, don’t you dare listen to even one Christmas song.”

Nothing adds a sense of happiness and faith to a room quite as quickly as Fr. Grinch saying, “The Holidays can’t be happy yet, we’re still in darkness because the baby hasn’t been born yet.”

That actually distracts from the message of Advent. Our theme, like the prophet’s, is to live in the hope of a future illuminated by faith. He said, “In the days to come, God will do something new. God’s temple will be on the highest mountain, and people will stream to it.”

Israel faced one of the most powerful armies in the Mediterranean world. The Assyrians held power to enslave them like the Egyptians enslaved their ancestors.

The nation only saw their present problem. Anxiety consumed their vision, and it left them blind to God’s grace. The prophet told them to expect a time of restoration!

We need that too. We can open our hearts to God’s continued work even if we still see trash along the streets and trees on the ground in our neighborhoods

We can live in the hope of a restored tomorrow…

We can also live in the hope of peace.

When we hear the words “peace,” we all hear different things. Some minds go to nuclear disarmament. Some hear a dream for reconciliation and rest among all the various peoples of the world.

Others, well… They hear it connected with the word love… because Woodstock just celebrated its 50thanniversary.

For the prophet Isaiah, peace was a miracle from God. He even had the tenacity to say that God would bring better times, and the surrounding nations would live in peace.

On the surface, that seems easy enough. All we need is faith. But Isaiah said that to a people facing an army that intended to annihilate them. I can’t imagine turning the radio on in Leningrad in 1941 when the German offensive sat at the door and hearing a priest say, “Do not trouble yourselves with the Nazi’s. There will come a time when peace will reign.”

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