On one occasion Lucy puts her hands on her hips and says, “You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life! You are the shadow of your own goal posts! You are a miscue! You are 3 puts on the 18th green! You are the 7-10 split in the 10th frame! A love-set! You have dropped a rod and a reel in the lake of life! You are a missed free-throw! A shanked 9-iron! A called-third strike! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?”
Sometimes you and I don’t need a Lucy to make us feel this way. Life itself today can sometimes make us feel this way.
That’s why the Lord gives us this time of Advent. It is not only a time of anticipation, it is a time of hope. Advent speaks not only of the blessed Birth of the Christ Child, but also the time when we fully have Jesus reigning in our heart. Isaiah says in today’s reading (Isaiah 2:15) that when this happens “nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” The nations of Europe did this after World War I and II. This is the hope Advent and the Christ-Child brings us.
Advent also provides you and me with personal hope. We desperately need hope when we are at the bedside of an aging parent, when we have to deal with a failing marriage, or we are mulling our own mortality. At times like this we become so aware of what finite creatures we are.
Joni Eareckson Tada in 1967 had to confront her own crippled, finite body and the evil that was so present in the world 50 years ago. Joni broke her neck in a diving accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. When she rose from her deep depression, she found refuge and hope in her strong Christian faith. Joni became a successful commercial artist and a best-selling author.
In one of her books, A Step Further, Joni writes words you and I need to contemplate as we begin Advent and prepare for Christmas: “If God’s mind was small enough for me to understand, God wouldn’t be God….Sometimes I can’t stand being in a wheelchair, but there God’s grace takes over. Even in my handicap, God has a plan and a purpose for my life. God began his earthly life in a stinky stable. He got angry. He was lonely. He went without a place to call his own, abandoned by his closest friends. He wept real tears. This is a God I can trust. I know my tears count with him.”
This is what Advent is all about. It is about hope. It is about our personal need. It is about a world that often goes awry. But Advent is all about a God who is not far away. Our God is a God who never stops loving us.