Welcome to the new liturgical year!
It’s Advent, our theme changes, our colour changes and some of the things within our worship service will change as well. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which is “coming”. In the Christian church calendar it is the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. It begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 and concludes on Christmas Eve. Many of us count down the 24 days to Christmas – 1 to 24 December – and Advent calendars help us to do that. As part of this preparation for the coming of the Christ Child our theme for this period is “Time for…”. As we explore the traditional words of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love we will also be exploring time for vision, action, all and dreaming. We will do this in both Old and New Testament writings.
This morning we hear from the prophet Habakkuk, not a book we tend to read very often. (Didn’t I wish for some easier readings once we got into Advent? Mmmmm). Habakkuk is a fascinating small book. It is unique among the prophetic literature in questioning the earlier explanations that the prophets had raised about why the Israelites had been attacked by other nations. This was generally understood to be punishment meted out by God upon the people for their wayward path. Habakkuk questions how it can be possible that the disproportionate damage done by invading armies could be the actions of a just God. In the manner of the psalms of lament, Habakkuk complains to God about what he sees happening. He is frustrated with God that there has been no intervention to stop the bloodshed: God will not listen, will not save. There are some very familiar words in these passages that remind us of other biblical books. We hear the cry “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help..” and “will you not save?” as Habakkuk expresses his frustrations. Yet in the very act of observing and documenting what is taking place, and raising this to God, Habakkuk maintains hope that this is not the end of the story. There is still hope. Habakkuk has not given up on God.
There are some beautiful words in chapter 2, verse 3. It is a verse filled with hope and highly regarded by our Jewish siblings – “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” When the Jewish people recite this verse they say the “it” is the Messiah. It is reported that during the holocaust that a Jewish Rabbi put this verse to song and that those walking to the gas chambers would sing it, it holds a special place in Jewish history.
This is the vision and the hope of this time of Advent, if it seems too tarry, wait for it, it will surely come.