Today we light the candle of Joy, following the candles of Hope and Faith.
Advent harkens to this time of waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Even after the birth of Jesus, there is still…waiting. Jesus is just a baby, a cradle full of hope. Then he is a boy. Then, there’s not much happening until Jesus is…thirty. Even after a moment of birth, it’s waiting. Excitement, but waiting.
It’s like Christmas for a kid. Excitement, but all this…waiting for the “good stuff” to happen.
How do we fill the space? Activities. Action. Things are still happening. Perhaps this is the lesson as a child to fill the space of Advent with activities: songs (concerts and plays), thinking of others (buying gifts and sending cards and offerings to those in need), preparing for Christmas Day with light (decorating trees and stringing lights and making ornaments), baking cookies and thinking of others. Perhaps this time of hope and preparation is a child’s way of connecting to waiting. Patience.
In the grander scheme of things the waiting is a long time. It’s centuries between the prophets and the birth of Jesus. Centuries between Isaiah and the coming of Jesus. What do we do while we wait? The book of Isaiah offers hope in a time where things are pretty terrible. Isaiah connects the people to one God to help keep one pointed faith, helping the people to be strong during times of struggle. He guides people to worship one God, continuing the move from many gods to one. To trust and have faith in that one God. Isaiah teaches us not to be discouraged, but to move forward because better times and places are coming. Isaiah tells us not to lose hope, but to work toward a better place, that each of us has a part to play in that change. Have faith. And here is a tangible thing to look forward to: Emmanuel “God With Us”.
Today, we light the candle of Joy. How do we find Joy in waiting and when things are not so great? He have hope. And we have faith. The only constant is change. This moment will not last forever.
At this point, we’re waiting for a child of Hope. Isaiah is the beginning of the line…the lineage. As a prophet, he is connected to the moment of birth to come. Then there are more lines in this season of Advent:
To come to the Women of Christmas Tea (connecting us to our INC–last Tea is this Wednesday if you’d like to join us), Elizabeth and Zachariah are offered hope in the form of a child they never expected to be blessed with. In turn, their son, John will hold the lineage during the time of Jesus, until Jesus is ready to take up the reins. John is the Baptist, the one to bear witness to the Light coming.
Mary and Joseph have their own work to do. They must have faith in God and the angel and each other. They must bring a child into the world and keep him safe to grow up and do the work he is meant to do as a teacher, a healer, a leader, a Christ.
The Old Testament is the foundation of the new. It holds its own wisdom. It holds the lineage, and for Christians, it is the holder of the lineage until the New Testament comes in and expands on that earlier teaching. Lineage. Lines. Time as linear.
Jesus is a part of the that line, a big part, but still a part. In Matthew, Jesus says (5:17) “I did not come to abolish the law (the old testament) and the prophet, I did not come to abolish, but to complete.” Perhaps to complete the lineage. Or, maybe to be the keystone in the lineage.
Maybe time is a circle. Jesus holds a place on the circle. The prophets hold a place on the line. Mary and Joseph. Elizabeth and Zachariah. The Baptist holds a place on that line. The angels. The shepherds (this week is also called the Shepherds candle). The kings. The wise men. The common people in waiting. All in a circle that comes back to itself. Love.
We each of us holding space between the old and the coming of the Light as it comes closer and closer.
Jesus is coming, a baby. Hope. He teaches us that God is not above, but with us. Emmanuel, God with us. God as humanity. Perhaps…within us. In this lineage, where does it go from here? We could have long theological discussions about this (even arguments), but I’m going to keep it simple: what if we are the lineage holders?
What if we hold on to the Hope and Joy that Jesus teaches us? What if we are the be the healers and the teachers and the peacekeepers and the children of the divine? What if we are meant to express God Within?
What if, perhaps, we each of us, holds the lineage moving forward? Then, how do we hold space on the line? How do we express the God Within? How do we heal? How do we teach? How do we keep peace? How do we love? How do we express Light in the Darkness?
Hope. Faith. Love. Light. Good Work. Good Company. Kindle the flame in ourselves. Kindles the flame in others.