A mother, three wise daughters and a brother
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9 and Mark 13: 24-37
“Where is the child?”
Cried a woman.
“Where is our Hope?”
the woman cried.
As we head out of the second lockdown and into new tiered restrictions a lot of people are losing sight of Hope. She is like the missing child everyone wants to find.
Hope was the light in the darkness. She was the sunshine in people’s lives. She was the star of the classroom. She shone brightly everywhere she went, bringing smiles to sad faces and healing broken hearts. With Hope the future always looked good.
“Where is the child,”
Cried a woman.
“Where is our Hope”
the woman cried
Hope has gone missing and everyone is lost without her so we need to find her, and find her quick before too many people give up on the future. There is no future without Hope! It’s the end!
Storytelling is the most powerful way of communicating a message so today I am starting to tell you about three Wise Children, named Hope, Peace and Joy, who lived in Africa. Their mother is Faith, a strong African woman who, as the names of her daughters suggest, always has a joyful smile, a heart for peace and in the darkest of times lives in hope.
Many children I have met from Africa are given names that translate into words like Wisdom, Truth, Love, Light, Grace or those of the three wise children and their mother, and more. They take the meaning of their name everywhere they go and what a wonderful reminder that when you say her name, ‘Hope’ is with you or ‘Peace’ will greet you and ‘Joy’ will dance with you. Like mother like daughter so they couldn’t do it without ‘Faith’!
The children brought to the world very special gifts that were evident from birth. Hope was like a prophet who was a light in the gloom and doom of the world with everything she said and the way she lived. With children like Hope the future was great. Now Hope had gone missing!
Peace was her sister. She was like an angel to strangers who met her, always sharing good news with encouragement and Joy gathered people together like a shepherd and led them in a dance of praise and rejoicing of God. They felt lost without Hope, but with a mother like Faith there was no giving up. She trusted in the words that kept her strong.
To the community around Hope was dead, but Faith kept looking for the lost child because she knew in her heart that she was alive. To everyone else Hope was lost, but not to Faith. She had another child called Love and he, like his mother, would never give up on his sister.
He patiently persevered with his mother until they saw a light coming toward them through the darkness and together they ran to embrace Hope! She was home. She had returned from the dead!
“Where have you been?” they asked.
“I thought you would know that I have been walking in the darkness where people need me most,” said Hope. “They didn’t see me, but I had to take their hands and show them that there is a way.”
“Where is the child?”
cried a woman.
“Where is our Hope?”
the woman cried.
We can’t always see them, but Faith, Hope and Love remain with us in the darkest times and as we light our first Advent candle this year we begin a journey on which we can rediscover our vision and mission that will lead to a better, brighter, future. Trust in the words that last forever and heaven and earth will become a new kingdom.
Traditionally, Hope is the first candle on the Advent ring, but we can’t even begin the journey unless we have Faith. She is like the mother of the family who gives birth to Hope, who encourages Peace, who together celebrate with Joy, but without Love the light of Life will not shine.
As Advent begins so lockdown finishes and those of us with Faith are like disciples who walk the Advent Road with Hope. Faith trusts in the unknown so even when we seem to have lost Hope we fix our eyes ‘not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.’ (2 Corinthians 4: 18) The darkness we see now is only temporary, but beyond it is the eternal kingdom.
Our vision is beyond the horizon of human eye and it will seem like an impossible mission, but Faith has mothered our belief so we walk with her three wise children and their brother named Love who lead us to the amazing Life God has planned for us. Give me a bit of licence with the storytelling please so we can encourage each other as disciples on the Advent Road.
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses so if we can throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and run the race with perseverance we will show the world that Hope is alive. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before him endured the cross…. (Hebrews 12: 1-2). His are the words that last forever!
We want a better tomorrow, but HOPE walks beyond the challenges that we confront. It could be described as Easter happening at Christmas because we have to go through the cross to discover the HOPE of resurrection. The road to Bethlehem can be rough and tough with many more challenges but our great HOPE is found in the stable so don’t give up because God has a plan for us to have a better future.
God doesn’t inflict all the pain and suffering of Covid-19 on us, or any other adversity we experience, and makes that clear to Jeremiah (29: 11): “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a HOPE!” Health not sickness; peace not war; love not hatred — God’s plans are good not bad. God doesn’t break promises so his words last for ever, but our broken promises bring suffering and darkness to the world.
Yes, here are a lot of people looking for HOPE this weekend as we start the Advent journey, but many need someone to BE the light of hope in their lives. The Psalmist (119: 105) says: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path,” so it is the Word of God that provides our hope.
I am encouraged and strengthened by FAITH in words that will not fail, but my candle still gets close to burn out or being blown out or the flame snuffed out so we need other people to be alongside us, helping us on the journey when the going gets tough. We can have the Word born in our hearts from previous years, but it’s not what we say that makes the difference. It’s how we say it or how we live it that matters most. We can know the words and select the texts to become Prophets warning of doom and gloom or we can deliver good news for the future. Not easy when so many people are losing Hope in the darkness of despair and depression, but the Word of God is that light.
When you are feeling weak and weary remember that “those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint!” (Isaiah 40: 31).
There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment and we need more than ever Prophets of HOPE rather than gloom. Young and old, men and women, are receiving the Spirit with the words of prophesy that promises that everyone who speaks in the name of the Lord WILL BE saved. That’s the HOPE with which I will light the first Advent Candle this weekend. HOPE is found in the darkness when we can open our eyes to see Christ in the stranger and be encouraged by those words that are eternal…
Homer is attributed as saying: “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future” and although I don’t have a good African name the name I want to carry into the future is that of Jesus Christ on whom all my hope is founded. When you call on his name he is always with you, like a brother or sister ready to serve you!