By Jessie Best Chambers
Daily Lectionary reading: Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Isaiah 4:2-6; Acts 1:12-17, 21-26
Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 4:2-6
Isaiah 4:2-6 (New International Version)
In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
Reading this passage reminds me that we have a reason to hope, and that our hope will not disappoint.
If I’m being honest, I need more hope and less fear in my life. There is just so much that seems broken and impossible to fix. It’s really easy for me to let doom scrolling, scary headlines, and the loud voices of internet trolls cast a heavy shadow over my view of the world. There are a lot of things that I’m worried about - like climate change, divisive politics, racism, hateful speech, oppression, whether or not I’ll have the energy to cook dinner tonight, and to top it all off I’m still worried about the pandemic. Frankly, it’s exhausting and it’s way too easy to feel completely overwhelmed by it all.
Do you know the song, “We Need A Little Christmas?” (For we need a little Christmas, right this very minute . . . ) If we were to rewrite the song, I’d change the words to “because we need a little hope, right this very minute.” What I love most about Advent is that it is season that reminds us of the power of hope. Advent proclaims that no matter how dark things may be, the light is coming. And hope is one of the most important tools we have. Hope makes us better people. It enables us to love others even when it’s hard. It helps us to forgive others and ourselves. Hope empowers us to be the change that we want to see in the world. Hope also gives us the confidence to rest when we need to because we can trust that things will be ok even if we take a break from our striving.
This passage from Isaiah describes the new creation that is to come. It’s a time when we will do more than survive; we will be restored and made whole. All the wounds that we carry - those caused by the things that have been done to us and the things that we’ve done - will all be healed. Relationships will be restored and we will live in safety. The earth will be fruitful and healthy because this is a promise for all of creation. We hope for a time when all things will be made new. Ultimately, this is what we mean when we talk about the hope of resurrection or new life, and it is no small thing.
I’d like to invite you to join me in practicing hope this Advent. For me, that will look like taking intentional breaks from social media, participating in worship services where we proclaim our hope in community, listening to music that that makes me feel good (as I write this, “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child is playing on repeat in my head), and reminding myself that we have been promised a future full of hope, restoration, and healing.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have promised to restore all things through your Son Jesus. Help us to cast off our fears and dwell in your promise. Give us the strength to embody the hope that we have in you today and every day. Grant that our words and actions would be shaped not by the world around us, but by the fruits of your spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And help us to share our hope with others by loving our neighbors well. Amen.
About the Author
Jessie Best Chambers lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. Originally from North Carolina, she did her undergraduate work at Appalachian State University before obtaining a master’s in Theological Studies from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. In her free time, you can usually find her taking a walk or reading a murder mystery. Jessie loves the outdoors, the Old Testament, and puns.