31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
November 27, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Five weeks from now is Christmas day, and as my young friends know, in addition to Jesus’ birthday, Christmas brings one of Jesus’ most faithful and generous friends, Santa Claus. We have a lot of movies and books about Santa; however in the end, Santa is kind of mysterious. No one really knows where the North Pole is. No one really knows how he gets to all of those houses in one night. Santa is quite mysterious, but God. God, on the other hand, is really easy to know.
Over and over, throughout the Bible, God tells us who God is. In the Psalm I read today, we heard that God not only made the whole world, God continues to love the whole world, to be intimately involved in the whole world, seeking justice for the oppressed and food for the hungry. God sets the prisoners free – sets us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually free of all that binds us. God opens our eyes to see God’s glory and the beauty of the world. God lifts up those who are bowed down, who feel overburdened by the challenges of life. God watches over the stranger and cares for the orphan and widow and everyone else who is overlooked and ignored by society. God seeks to right all that is wrong in our world.
Psalm after psalm tells us about God, as do the prophets. Prophets like Isaiah who said to a nation facing an uncertain future, to a nation where prosperity and peace were a distant memory, the prophet Isaiah reminded God’s people that God is a God of hope. And Isaiah invited them to hope for the day when swords and spears would be turned into tools for farming, to hope for the day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4) To wait and hope for the day when all of God’s people will walk in the light of the Lord because God is a God who is making this happen.
We too live in a time of uncertainty, a time when prosperity and peace seem like a distant memory, a time when too many are anxious and suffering. And that can leave us feeling pretty hopeless at times; however as people of faith, as God’s beloved children, we know God. And we know that to know God is to know God’s ways, to know God’s ways of hope. To know that even when things seem the darkest, that God is shining God’s light, that God is bringing God’s light into our world, that God is and always will be a God who loves the world and is constantly seeking justice and working to make right what feels wrong in our world.
To know God is to know hope.
Increasingly though, people don’t know God. The world is loud, and God’s still speaking voice is often quiet. Quiet but always there. Quiet but always working.
For all of my adult life, I have been a person who believes strongly in the power of prayer. Many of you know, I don’t just say I will pray for you. I pray with you. I text you, email you, share out loud with you a prayer. This summer, I felt called by God to take my prayer life in a new direction. I began writing names, situations, thoughts, all down on prayer cards, and I pray over the cards most days, cause life is busy, right?
Prayer is mysterious. I have some thoughts about how prayer works however in the end, prayer is mysterious. To quote a devotional someone shared with me though, prayer is not to get things; prayer is to get to God. Prayer is to get to God, and when I get to God, when I am connected with God, I have hope.
I have hope because my eyes are open to the ways God is answering my prayers and to the ways God is working in our world, working to make the wrong right.
And I have hope because I am connected to God, reminded why being a Christian makes a difference in my life, reminded what the Christ child means in my life.
Babies are always a gift of hope. We look at their little faces and we see all of the possibilities before them and us. This little baby, the Christ child, was a gift of hope because he is God in human form. And just like the Psalmists said, just like the prophets said, Jesus showed us with his words and actions that God includes all people; God loves all people; God seeks to free us from all that binds us; God works for peace and justice to reign in all lives.
And Jesus showed us more. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus showed us that every day, we can be made new. That every day, we can begin again – leave our mistakes and regrets in the past and start over because God is a God of new beginnings, a God of hope.
I imagine you know how powerful that is – to have hope, to live in hope. To be feeling overburdened, lonely, anxious, uncertain, and to have hope that God is present with you; God is guiding you, and in time, in God’s time, God is making what is wrong in your world right. God is making all things new. Maybe not in the way you planned or expected but in just the way it turned out you needed.
It is such a gift to have hope. It truly makes the impossible possible.
That is my prayer for you. Literally, I have it written on a prayer card -that you will know God and that you will know God’s ways of hope. That you will live with hope, live knowing that today is a new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity to do your best and be your best.
I also pray you will be God’s hope in the world.
I pray that you will bring God’s hope into the world by giving food to the hungry, by donating to a local food pantry or our church community’s 275th anniversary collection. I pray you will work to bring kindness and justice and peace to our world as well as caring for the stranger by slowing down on the roads, being patient in the stores, seeking to include and lift up those our society often forgets – our veterans and seniors, those with mental illness or who are neurologically diverse, those who have different physical abilities.
You are God’s gift of hope to the world. You can reach out a hand of love and kindness to someone who really needs it and slowly help set them free from all that binds them. It is such a gift to sit with someone, showing them with your presence that they are not alone, that God loves them and Jesus came to bless them, too.
You are God’s gift of hope to the world. You, you, are God’s gift of hope to our hurting, uncertain world. You have the ability, the gifts to make our communities, our world a better place with your small, yet powerful and transformative acts. You have the ability to show others that the impossible is possible.
In these Advent days, I pray you will have moments when your eyes are open to God and God’s ways. I pray you will open your heart to God more and more and that you will see all of the wonderful ways God is bringing hope into your life.
And I pray that as we wait for the Messiah, for Christ’s birth, you will walk in the light of the Lord, actively bringing God’s hope to the world.