Hope in Troubled Times
I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this or not, but we have had a series of really hopeful readings from some of the Minor Prophets of the Hebrew Bible during this Advent season. What’s remarkable about these readings is that each of these prophets lived during times that were anything but hopeful.
Last week, we heard these words from the prophet Zephaniah, “At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.” This is surprising because Zephaniah lived in the period immediately following one of the most violent and corrupt kings of Judah. As the new king, Josiah was trying to rebuild peace and prosperity, Zephaniah offered a word of hope from God: I will restore your fortunes before your eyes.
This week, we get a similar message from the prophet Micah; looking toward the reign of a new King, Micah writes, “And they shall live secure, for now he [the King] shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” Micah lived at a time of great insecurity. The Assyrians were in the process of destroying the northern kingdom of Israel and sometimes made raids across the border into the southern kingdom. The people of Judah arranged to send large tributes to Assyria to protect Jerusalem and the surrounding territory, but the heavy burden of taxation and constant threat of invasion drove the people to the edge.
What these prophets saw—and what we long for in our own time—is a vision of God’s faithfulness that is not tied to our current situation. This is what faith looks like in practice: In times of uncertainty and turmoil, we look to a God who continues to offer hope, peace, and restoration. This is the inbreaking of God into the world, the moment we anticipate each Advent, the time when God intervenes in human history, lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things.
During this final week of Advent, let us find hope in the goodness and mercy of a God whose mission to the world continues despite pandemics, political and economic uncertainty, conflict and violence, and all other obstacles that fill us with fear and insecurity. Our King is great to the ends of the earth, and he is the one of peace.
The Rev. Dr. Perry M. Pauley
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, AZ