Jay McDivitt, Waukesha, WI


Warm-up Question

What does “hope” mean to you? What makes you “hopeful”?

Hope in the Waiting

I’m looking for a “current event” to begin this week’s Faith Lens. I scroll through Google News. Wow. I think. This is a rough day in the life of the world.

On this day, the top stories are a plane crash that killed almost an entire Brazilian football (soccer) team. A fire is threatening to destroy Gatlinburg. Ohio State University is reeling from an attacker who wielded a car and a knife to injure 11 people before the police shot him dead.There’s also a bizarre story about a woman who stabbed her boyfriend after he let her drink her blood.

That’s today. Tomorrow’s newsfeed will probably look much the same (although hopefully with fewer “wannabe vampires”). Yesterday’s sure did. And here in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and shorter as the darkness grows.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me weary. I look for the good around me – and I find it, to be sure. I rejoice in my children’s giggles and listen to great music and connect with friends. But these days seem heavier than ever for some reason (many reasons), and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by all the bad news. I could just turn it off – stop reading – and sometimes I do. Yet I believe it’s important to know what’s happening in the world, even if it’s often not very joyful.

Discussion Questions

  • How about you? Do you see/hear more good news or bad news these days? How much do you pay attention to “current events”?
  • What bad news have you heard lately? How does that make you feel?
  • What good news have you heard lately? How does that make you feel?

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-10

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-11

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

John is in prison.

shutterstock_446640136John had made a name for himself pointing the way to God’s brand new day, to the coming of the Messiah, to the dawn of the Kingdom. In the midst of a scary world of Roman oppression and uncertain futures, John had preached the people into a frenzy of hope: “God will fix this! God is coming soon!”

And the people listened. They flocked to him. When Jesus showed up, John pointed to him and said, “There he is! See – I told you!” And the people listened again.

But now, John is in prison. He will soon lose his head (literally).

This isn’t exactly what he and those who had listened to him were expecting. Is this what we’ve been waiting for?  So they send a note to Jesus: “Are you…really…the One? Seriously? Or should we wait for another?”

And Jesus responds: “Look around. What do you see? Darkness, sure… but what else? Things are happening – good things, great things – the stuff God promised long ago. Keep your eyes open. Look around. Tell John what you see.”

Indeed, Jesus points them back to the reading from Isaiah. God’s promised future begins with healing and wholeness, lives being restored. Water in the desert. “Be strong! Do not fear!” This is happening. God is building a superhighway through the middle of the desert to bring you home.

But notice the image here: A highway in the desert. In my part of the country we often say we have two seasons – winter and road construction. Building a highway takes time. The day doesn’t start with the sun blazing in the top of the sky – it teases and hints its way over the horizon with lightening blue, a touch of pink, a slowly emerging glow of yellow.

And so it is with hope. Hope is a lot of waiting. But it is an active waiting. It’s not just sitting around, giving into despair or just closing our eyes and pretending everything is fine. It is an open-eyed searching in the darkness for the hints and signs of light and life. It is recognizing a life transformed, a relationship reconciled, a person being made whole.

In Spanish, the same word (esperar) means “to hope” and “to wait.” That’s what Advent is about: waiting in the darkness with eyes opened up to see the signs of hope. Look around: God is making good on God’s promises. And thanks be to God for that.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you wait for something good to happen? What do you do? What do you feel? What happens when it takes longer than you thought it would?
  • How do you think John felt in prison? What do you think he thought and felt when he heard Jesus’ response to his question? How would you respond?
  • Sometimes it’s easier to wait for something – or to stay hopeful – when you’re with other people who are also waiting and hoping with you. How can you help other folks be hopeful these days? How can other folks help you?

Activity Suggestions

Either give one large piece of paper (11X17) to each person, or roll out a large banner for everyone to work on together. Write “ESPERAR” in the middle of the page or banner. Using magazines/newspapers and scissors/glue, markers/crayons, etc., depict what it means to wait and hope at the same time. One approach (just a suggestion) could be to start on one side of the paper with signs of darkness/fear/etc., and then move across the page with signs of light and hope. Take time to share what you did and talk about what you’re thinking/feeling.

Closing Prayer

O God for whom we wait, help us to be patient as we wait for the hope you bring. Keep our eyes open to see the good things you are already doing. Strengthen us to be strong for others, and to ask others for help while we wait. Bring your light and healing into every corner of creation. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.