Hope. Peace. Joy and Love. These themes light the way for all we desire and all that’s represented in the coming of the Christ child. More than most years, I have been taken by the drought of these soulful commodities in the lives folks known and unknown. It is a sacred thing to stand beside those whose year has been marked by the things that have robbed them of the capacity to hear the music from this holy quartet. At least not without distortion, dissonance, and distance. We’ve all been there and cared for those who have taken residence there as well.
Through Advent I have been preaching from the prophets as they held out hope for a coming Messiah. Jeremiah tells us of the day when God will fulfill his gracious promise. (Jeremiah 33:14-16) Malachi speaks from a different slant, that of fiery refining and painful cleansing from a God who not only says “Get ready” but also “Get right.” (Malachi 3:2-5) Zephaniah might be my favorite of the lot as he calls us to sing with joy to a God who is doing the same over us. (Zephaniah 3:14-17) I love that picture of joy. We close the four Sundays with a word from brother Micah (5:2-5) about how God acts in unlikely, unexpected ways, bringing us closer to him by coming closer to us. Isn’t that just like God?
A steady theme throughout the prophets is that’s God’s people would indeed rise again. Living on this side of the New Testament we have the benefit of knowing that this return to life would be made possible by the Son of God doing that very thing. Therein is the hope we have that gives rise – that word again – to the promise of peace and joy all born of such love. “Come on up for the rising” was the way Springsteen once sang it. For the readers of the holy alphabet, that reads and sounds more like Easter than Advent. But I suppose that the sounds of one angelic chorus may well have echoed that joyous strain. He came down to lift us up. God showed up in skin to offer back all that sin and death had taken from us. Hope. Peace. Joy and Love. Those seem to me to be essential ingredients of abundant life. The good news being that he has come that we might have that kind of spirit in absolute abundance. And for all of us whose lives at any given moment don’t, we are again invited to stand by a manger and ponder the possibility that, once more, it really could be.