First Sunday of Advent: A 400 year pause

First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10

I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait 400 years for something to happen.

Not even culturally. I was born and live in a country that’s less than 300 years old. I’m occasionally told there’s a comet I won’t live to see again, or that I’m seeing one for the first time in X = < 400 years. But even if I’d heard the stories of the thing that people 400 years ago were waiting for, I don’t know that I could bring myself to claim that it was all finally coming true. Especially to make the leap to say it was coming true for me.

“The days are surely coming,” says the Lord, “when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”

Then, depending upon how you look at it, scripture records 400 years of silence from God. At some point, most of us would just lose hope.

Much—if not most—of our Old Testament revolves around the exile of Israel and Judah. Scholarship suggests that during the exile is when the origin stories of the Jewish people were first written down, in an effort to prevent their being forgotten forever. Jeremiah’s recorded words and deeds surround the fall of Jerusalem and the struggle to come. Israel was already scattered across Assyria; now the kingdom of Judah would be taken away to captivity in Babylon. Even the promise here has sadness in it; it’s recorded as two separate promises—one to the house of Israel, one to the house of Judah. Two nations, formerly one, both separated from God and in ruin.

As we begin Advent, I want to point us first to the archaic definition of hope: a feeling of trust. This is a little different than a feeling of expectation. You can do trust with your eyes closed. When you trust, many outcomes are acceptable—not just the one you had in mind. When your hope looks like trust, 400 years isn’t long enough to suffocate it. When your hope looks like trust, you can wake up to a new way of looking at old things and still be OK.

“Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.”

As we explore hope this first week of Advent, bear in mind that we’re invited to trust God as we follow in the truth of a loving Creator. We may not end up where we expected.

For reflection:

What are your expectations for this season of Advent?

Are there things for which you feel you’ve been waiting a long time?

How open is your mind to what fulfillment looks like in your spiritual journey?

How are you preparing your spirit for this season?

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