“Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.'”
I HATE scary movies. My dad loved them and as a child, I sat on his lap watching through my fingers too many times. Even when a resolution was imminent—sometimes a blessed happy ending—those films were never finished quickly enough!
Advent is just a little like that for me. Though I know well the end of the tale—the happy ending of Christmas, if you will—it never arrives fast enough for my inner child. You know, “God, give me patience. NOW!” As I write this, we’re in Day 4 of the post-election in-between, and comparisons are inescapable: in torture we continue waiting, following an agonizing gestation, for the birth—we truly hope—of a new and real resolution, yet still incomplete in all likelihood. So much waiting! So much pain! And for what? More of the same?
But just as St. Francis prayed, where there is despairwe can sow hope. The language of today’s passage is unequivocal, using only imperatives: BE strong. Here IS your God. He WILL come and save you. No ifs, ands, or buts. This is what hope looks like in writing. And hope is always a priceless gift!
We may choose to make way for the Messiah by sowing that hope. The annual recurrence of Advent gives us the opportunity not just to wait but with the intention to learn and master patience. There will always be pain in this earthly life, but as God’s beloved children we are afforded grace to persevere. We are called to compassion—to suffer with one another, dividing grief—just as Jesus took on the sins and suffering of the world. To hope is to not suffer alone.
It’s a lot to ask of us, human and imperfect. Can we really do all that? Yes! We can! With God’s help.
And we already know the ending.
God of strength and peace, help us to be strong and fearless, trusting in your promises. Amen.