Readings: Psalm 126; Isaiah 40:1-11; Romans 8:22-25
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Groaning is a good way to describe the state we find ourselves in today. We are groaning for a world in a profound state of dysfunction and disarray, groaning for the countless victims of abuse and discrimination and violence, groaning for the seeming inability to find any common ground upon which to build a commonwealth. And if we are honest, we groan also for our own shortcomings and failures – our failure to be what we want to be, what at times we believe we might be. The question for us is: Are these groans the throes of death or the labor of new birth, are they reason for despair or for hope?
In one of the more difficult periods of my life, when groaning seemed like a constant reality, I was sustained by the simple mantra: “God is up to something.” Through the grace of God these few words became a foundation of hope, a hope that, over time, became reality in surprising ways that I could not have planned for or even imagined. Ever since then I have begun to see that the words are not just about me, but have a universal meaning. That, I think, is what Paul is talking about in these few verses. All creation groans because these words do have a universal meaning. In the midst of the struggle, I could not see what God was up to. Just as we cannot see with clarity or certainty what God is about in all creation. We can guess perhaps. But most of all we can hope. We can hope, because there have been times, fleeting times perhaps, when we have caught glimpses of what God is up to. At one time a simple mantra provided such a glimpse for me. On a silent night long ago events in a stable provided such a glimpse for all of us. It is a hope we have for something we cannot see, but which we know will become reality. It is an Advent hope, a hope that can sustain us as we wait, perhaps even wait with patience.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.
Offered by Jeff Jones, writer, pastor, seeker of the Christ Child.