The words swept into my mind during Sunday worship. Spirit-words dancing on a song.
I quickly sat down, grabbed my pen, and scribbled the words down on the bulletin. It was the first Sunday of Advent and yes, I thought, hope IS a vulnerable act.
Mary & Joseph, Zechariah & Elizabeth, the Shepherds, the Wise Men, Simeon & Anna. They all had to become vulnerable in order to hope that yes, Jesus is the coming Messiah--Immanuel, God with us. In their vulnerability, they had to trust that the angels' words were true, that the guiding star was true, that the promises written hundreds of years before were true. They had open themselves to TRUST in the great, "I AM THAT I AM."
But not only that, in their hope, they had to make themselves vulnerable to the people around them.
Firstly, they had to rely on those around them for help. Mary visited and stayed with Elizabeth because she knew it was a safe place. The shepherds and wise men had each other on their journeys, whether from the field to the manger or from far in the East to Bethlehem. In their vulnerability to hope, they found strength in community.
But then secondly, they had to trust God enough to become vulnerable, knowing that they'd be criticized or mocked or even laughed at. What do you think the people in the communities where Mary and Joseph lived were saying? What Joseph heard from his friends, or even his family? Perhaps people were saying things directly to their faces or simply talking behind their backs. What do you think Zechariah's community said to him? To Elizabeth? I mean, two old people finally able to have a baby? C'mon!
For these people, it was about trusting and hoping in God's promises.
But there's more: It was also about declaring thanks to God IN HOPE!
And Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,..." (Lk.1:46,47)
After John was born, the first words out of Zechariah's mouth were these: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them." (Lk.1:68)
"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (Lk. 2:20)
This was Anna's response when she saw Joseph and Mary with Jesus in the temple: "she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." (Lk. 2:38, NIV)
Hope. The theme word for the first Sunday of Advent. 2,000+ years ago, hope was a vulnerable act. Nothing has changed. It is still a vulnerable act.