This Sunday begins the Season of Advent, leading to Christmas.
Advent is more about the future than about the past. Yes, we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, but we celebrate his birth because Jesus Christ changes the way we look ahead. He brings us hope.
The Jewish scriptures we read during Advent tell us the kind of hope Jesus brings. This Sunday’s first reading is from the Prophet Jeremiah. God says to him:
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”
Now, God spoke to Jeremiah as Jerusalem and Judea were being laid waste by a powerful Babylonian army that came from the north to level cities and towns, destroy crops, confiscate valuables and round up able-bodied Jews to bring them to Babylon as slaves. They spared nothing, brutally crushing everything.
So Jeremiah sees nothing but wasteland before him. The land he loved, life as he knew it was gone; everything has been uprooted.
However, God points to a shoot, a tiny sliver of life pushing up amidst the ruins. It’s a sign of life, and through it God will made Judah safe and Jerusalem secure. God will bless his land again.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by some great loss, some defeat, some bad situation that seems to take away all we know and love. Our world today, with all its many problems, can look like a wasteland.
The time of advent says, “Signs of hope, small though they be, are there in the midst of it all. God promises life not death in Jesus, whom he has sent. Look for those signs of hope.”