Acts of Hope
Advent is the season of hope. We look forward to the coming the Christ child as God’s sure sign of commitment to and love for the world. We prepare to welcome Christ into our hearts, homes, and faith communities as the light of the world, the light that the darkness cannot overcome. And we sing carols of hope and expectation that help orient us to God’s decision to forsake heavenly glory in order to take on our life and lot in and through the Word made flesh.
Yes, Advent is a season of hope. We talk about hope, we pray in hope, we wait and prepare in hope, and we sing words of hope.
But do we act in hope?
That seems to me a critical question to ask, especially during this time when hope seems so scarce in our world. Day after day we read headlines of mass shootings, terrorist attacks, racial injustice, refugees fleeing oppression, wars and rumors of war, and more. Hope seems a precious commodity in strikingly short supply. So we do, indeed, need to talk about hope, reminding our people and communities of the Gospel promise that God in Jesus is not only with us, but actually took on our lot and life that we might live, struggle, work, laugh, and die in hope.
But words alone will not suffice. In fact, unless we act in hope we risk betraying our words. Some of these actions may be dramatic — opening a food pantry, joining a protest for justice, participating in an interfaith hospitality network to give shelter to the homeless. But many actions may be much smaller and still quite powerful. A word of encouragement to someone who is struggling, listening to someone who is used to being ignored, making time to volunteer at a local charity, inviting someone away from family for Christmas dinner. Each of these actions, big or little, signals that we believe the future is in God’s hands and therefore we can act with courage and generosity in the present.
At LTSP, we have been acting in hope in a variety of ways, both small and large. At our most recent faculty meeting we authored, adopted, and hand delivered a note of support and solidarity to a local mosque that was the target of vandalism. The previous Sunday we gathered on Sunday evening with 180 friends and supporters to pray for the nations of the world during our Advent Vespers service. And with the support of a generous donor we are completing the Atrium connector between The Brossman Center and the Library, making the library accessible for all. We are also launching a new Distributed Learning MDiv with our colleagues at Gettysburg Seminary. Each of these actions is an expression of our hope that, because the future is in God’s hands, we can care for our neighbor, pursue our mission, and invite others into the joy of the Gospel here and now.
During this Advent season, I pray you hear words of hope, hope that kindles your faith to action, testifying to the One who came so long ago in the manger at Bethlehem and still comes into our hearts and lives today.
Blessed Advent and Christmas,