Advent 2021: A Season Of Healing And Hope – December 13
December 12, 2021
A Season of Miracles
(Rev. Dr. Allison Tanner is Pastor for Public Witness, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA)
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:1-9 (NRSV)
Advent is a season of hope, of anticipation, and of experiencing miracles. It is a time to retell the sacred story of our faith – of God coming to us in our struggles, in the form of a vulnerable tiny baby who is protected and loved and nurtured, and who will ultimately lead the people in the ways of truth, love and liberation. It is a time of claiming the promises of God that we know are true, despite the struggles and injustices and inhumanity that plague our world.
One of my favorite definitions of hope comes from our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters, “hope is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble, and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us” (Kairos Palestine). Hope is invitational, it invites us to see more than what meets the eye, to believe God’s promises even when they seem impossible, and then to act on this hope by working with God’s Spirit to bring about the hope we long for. It affirms that the God we long for – who sometimes seems so far away – is indeed at work all around us and invites us to join in this work of truth-telling and love-insisting and liberation-bringing.
Hope anticipates the outcomes of God’s promises, God’s presence with us, and God’s ultimate triumph over evil. This anticipation is manifest in bearing witness to miracles – the inbreaking of God amid our pain. Miracles are an essential part of our sacred story – the miracle of God coming to us, the miracle of Mary’s pregnancy, the miracle of Scripture fulfilled, the miracle of shepherds and angels and animals bearing witness to the sacredness of lowly servants opening themselves to God.
In 2021, we have so many miracles to celebrate. The miracle of Oscar’s freedom despite an immigration judge hellbent on deporting him. The miracle of Yuba County Jail releasing the last of its 175 detainees. The miracle of community coming together amid injustice and inhumanity to overcome ICE’s racist oppression. We celebrate the miracle of January 5, when so many who have been denied the right to vote for so long bravely came out to the polls, many for the first time, to help our country embody true democracy. We celebrate the miracle of “loaves and fishes” multiplied in the ministry of the Hunger Task Force that continues providing food and shelter to so many in our community. We celebrate the miracle of our congregation transforming itself in the midst of COVID to worship and work and witness together in new and powerful ways.
As Advent unfolds, I invite you to open yourself to this season of hope and anticipation and experiencing miracles. Our communities, our country and our world are indeed surrounded by struggle – obstacles that tempt us to despair. But God’s Spirit beckons us even now to hope – to have the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble, and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us. If we can find our way to hope, anticipatory hope, we can continue to experience the miraculous work of God – not only all around us, but within us and even sometimes through us.
What Good News!