Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“How long, O Lord?” These are the first words of the book of Habakkuk, the prophet. He is lamenting all the terrible things he sees happening in Israel—injustice, poverty and violence, contention and strife. Habakkuk lived in the 6th century BCE, at a time when the Babylonians were ravaging country after country, killing, deporting, and enslaving the peoples of each land they attacked. Israel was in the path of this great army. Habakkuk sees only despair all around him. When we look at our world today, we see many of the same things going on around us, and we, too, want to cry out “How long?” How long, Lord, will we find ways to hate each other? How long will there be people without enough food to eat? The list goes on and on. God affirms Habakkuk’s fear about the Babylonians coming to invade Israel, and urges Habakkuk to spread the word that trouble is coming. But God also speaks of hope, saying the righteous shall live by faith.
All through the Scripture from the beginning of Genesis, we have heard how God’s love for God’s people remains steadfast. The prophet is reminded that God will never abandon God’s people, and that is the hope we have. God has always been with us, so we hold on to hope, on this first Sunday of Advent. One great example of that hope happened last week. We baptized Lillian and Sophia Maltby. And this week, we are welcoming Maria O’Dwyer to our congregation. These two events show that we are a people with hope. And we can say with Habakkuk, “I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer and makes me tread upon the heights.”
We are now in the season of Advent, and contrary to the notion that we are waiting for baby Jesus to be born, we wait in anticipation of Jesus’s return in glory. Just as the prophet waits for God, we are waiting amidst similar events of fear and sometimes despair that Habakkuk saw. As followers of Jesus, we are called to make a difference in the world—being awake to the pain, suffering, and injustice in the world and reaching out to do God’s work with our hands. Last week, I participated in the Interfaith Thanksgiving service held at Woodlands Community Temple. People of many different faiths gathered together in one community. Each religious leader was asked to share what they were thankful for. Over and over, we heard these leaders expressing thanks for our community, and how we work together to make a difference in the lives of people in need.
That is how we wait during Advent. Whatever comes tomorrow and next week, we are still people of God. We are still the hands and feet of God in the world, and we will continue to work to help those in need. We stand up for the outcast and the stranger, and stand against prejudice of all kinds. Amen.