First Notes – December 2016

As a number of you may have figured out by this time, I haven’t exactly been bashful in hiding my concern and lament over what’s happened in the popular culture during our 2016 national election. We’ve had other contentious elections and have experienced other turbulent years in our nation’s history.  I’m old enough to remember 1968 with some clarity.  This year seemed different, though. With the internet, social media, and wide variety of blogs and websites available to the general public it has all gotten more intense, personal, and frankly, nasty.  Perhaps this conflict has largely come about due to competing ideas of what the future of the nation should look like.  When visions clash, it can ignite the sparks.  In the meantime, the rest of us just look on in open-mouthed amazement as the flames grow higher around us.

Perhaps it is a good thing that Advent is just around the corner as we try to sort all of these things out.  I know that much of the church misunderstands what Advent is all about; it isn’t a time to prepare for the upcoming Christmas season, but rather it’s a season to prepare for that coming day when that new thing that God is creating will come to pass.  It will be that time when the thing we pray for every week–“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”–will be a reality.  It will be that time when the Kingdom or Reign of God will be realized in full.

In the current time, we struggle with the gap between what is and what God promises.  The words of the Advent hymn I learned as a third-grade child puzzled me: “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.”  Now, I understand it better.

That time of “not yet” seems like a time of exile, a time of being away from the thing that we’re supposed to be.  God has better things in mind and we are not there, yet.  Human governance, even in a republic crafted as well as this nation was put together, will always fall short of our ideals.  The ultimate trust and allegiance in this life can’t be given over to princes and mortals who cannot save (Psalm 146); it can only be given over to God.

During Advent, we pray, we discern, and we join God’s redeeming and reconciling work in this world as we look for the completion of God’s Reign in our midst.

May God’s blessing be upon you and those you love in this season of Advent.

Your servant in Christ,

Rev. Jim Hoppert

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