This Advent meditation comes from Harbinger of Hope: Worship Resources for the Creative Church, from CBF partner Seeds of Hope Publishers in Waco, Texas.
By Kristin Mercer
Text: John 11:17-27
Hope sees life not as what it is, but as what it could be.
Hope sees life not as what it is, but as what is should be.
Hope sees life not as what it is, but as what it will be.
Hope will not allow the one who hopes to sit passively by, allowing the circumstances to remain as they were when the were encountered. Hope challenges until change becomes real.
When we read the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11, we hear the despair in Martha’s voice as she looked Jesus in the eye and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
How the world would be different if he hadn’t let her down! If he had just shown up when he was supposed to, then her heart would not be rent in two by the death of her brother. Her brother would be alive and well.
But Martha’s despair was not really just about the emotional hardship of losing someone she loved dearly. Emotional hardship is hard enough with the perennial feelings of loneliness and grief that will inevitably crop up, especially around the sacred holy days and festivals.
But Martha was also losing life as she had known it. She once had the kind of home that could welcome people in with hospitality at the grace of Lazarus’ provision, but now she would be looking for the hospitality of others.
No woman could survive on her own in the ancient world. On the number line of power, she held the unenviable place of zero. She would have no other choice, but to beg or prostitute herself out to the men of the town.
She wasn’t a young woman, so neither option would be a particularly prosperous engagement. She would most likely go hungry most days, and once the town turned her out of her home she would be sleeping on the streets.
Her station was gone. Her security was gone. And yet, she waited for the coming of Jesus, ever hopeful. When Jesus finally arrived in town, she went out of her house and she met him. Her hope led to her action against the reality she saw looming ahead.
Passivity and hope cannot coexist.
This hope radically transformed Martha’s life. She did not just change her own situation, but that of her sister Mary also, and that of her entire neighborhood. She would keep her home clean, so that the strangers who passed through town might have a neat space to sleep. She would keep her kitchen stocked, so that the beggars would not have to fear where their next meal would come from.
Hope sees life not as it is, but as what it will be.
God, who awakens hope within us, may the hope
within the Advent season challenge me to actively
make this world a place that looks more like your
kingdom. May I seek peace for all people. May I
seek justice for the wronged. May I seek forgiveness
for those who have done wrong. May I receive all
that you have given me in gratefulness, so that I
do not take it for granted but generously share it
with everyone in need. Amen.
Kristin Mercer works as an administrative assistant at Mission Waco. A native of Belton, Texas, she recently graduated from George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco with a Master of Divinity degree. Her dream, she says, is to encourage literacy in low-income neighborhoods.