November 28, 2021, Making Room For Hope, by Pastor David

 Jeremiah 33: 14-16 (CEB) The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill my gracious promise with the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land. In those days, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is what he will be called: The Lord Is Our Righteousness. 

Second Reading.  Psalm 25: 4-5 (CEB) Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth—teach it to me— because you are the God who saves me. I put my hope in you all day long. 

Meditation: At the beginning of the new Christian year, we prepare ourselves to make room for God’s hope - in ourselves, in our community and in our church, as we breathe and open to God’s word.

November 28, 2021 Housing the Holy: Making Room for Hope

At an entrance onto the expressway in Northeast Ohio I had my thumb out trying to make it home to Cincinnati. It was getting dark and my chances for getting where I need to go were vanishing in front of my eyes. I’d been hitching all day from Vermont. It would have been hard to drive straight through and get home. What was I thinking? 

A moment later I knew what I had been thinking as I went to a pay phone and called the number I had for my friend Parker in Cleveland. In the back of my mind, I realized, I had always been thinking I could crash at Parker’s house in the Cleveland suburbs. I’d never been there, but I was sure my college classmate would be glad to make room for me for a night.

His parents answered the phone. It was kind of late, so I apologized and asked for Parker. “Oh, he’s on a train-ride across Canada. They left a few days ago.” 

“Yeah. I see.” I hadn’t figured this into my plans. I was embarrassed and I didn’t know what to say. They helpfully asked where I was. I explained my predicament, and they drove all the way out to the highway to bring me to their house. They gave me lovely hospitality and a bed. The next day they took me to the bus station.

The theme for our worship series this month is “Housing the Holy.” Remembering the story in which there was ‘no room in the inn,’ we are going to notice each week from now until Christmas, ways in which we can make room for the holy, make room for hope, peace, joy, and love. When Parker’s parents opened their house to a strange imposition of a young man that night, they were being holy people - they were making room, quite literally, for hope, just like the fabled innkeeper in the first century. 

“In those days…” On Christmas Eve Luke will take us back to ‘those days’ when a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.” Back in those days. But don’t miss this moment, today, my friends, this holy moment - with all its opportunities for making room for hope. Don’t miss this moment by wishing it was five years ago or wishing it was your childhood Christmas. 

Remember the days maybe when someone made room for hope in you, as Parker’s folks did for me. Remember that day with gratitude and vow to return the favor for someone in need of hope today. Our culture encourages us to celebrate this holiday with nostalgia and once upon a time, looking back sometimes to a time that never was. 

Jeremiah in our reading today, when he says “In those days and that time” is not looking back. Jeremiah writes, “The time is coming,…”  The time is coming when I will fulfill my gracious promise. Our assigned readings for today, especially for today, encourage us to look forward. “In those days there will be justice and righteousness,” peace and security.

Jeremiah was writing these words in a difficult time, a time when the people of Israel were in exile in Babylon, when they were far from home and needing a word of hope. We read Jeremiah today because we are also in a time when death and difficulty has been all around us, and it’s hard for us to see past it. This first Sunday of Advent is an alternate New Year’s Day, the first Sunday on the Christian calendar, when we are called to look forward. We are called not to despair, but to imagine God’s alternative future.

On our alternative New Years Day today we sit in the growing darkness, the lengthening nights and the waning days. Our ritual on this New Years day is made up not of resolutions for self-improvement, but a time of community reaffirmation of trust in God’s promises. God promises in our scripture to protect and restore the people, even as they are in the midst of great suffering and at the edge of despair. 

We are called during this time to remind people of those promises - promises for a future. How can we be people making room for hope, making room for God’s promises? You know, I’ve noticed a lot of folks wanting to complain about people who don’t have their vaccination or who don’t wear masks. It has been such a long time. We’re tired and it is difficult for us to be compassionate with people who - by the way are also tired and ready to be done with this. 

How can we make room for the holy? Can we find compassion for folks who aren’t vaccinated in our midst? I asked the guy from AAA yesterday if he was vaccinated. He said yes. He said, “I’m trying to convince my girlfriend. I tell her it’s just like the flu shot. We’re all gonna have to take it like a flu shot.” I totally agreed with him. What good would it have been for him to yell at her? We can practice as well by making room for people wherever they are own the journey, protecting ourselves and encouraging others, helping folks see a future with hope.

The days are getting shorter and darker - it’s true. But don’t miss this moment. It’s when the darkness is the darkest that the light shines the brightest, when hope is most important. Remember the times when someone made room for you, some holy person gave you a pillow, a place to stay, a little bit of hope in a hard time. Now is the time to return the favor. 

This is God’s good news - that a time is coming when God’s promise will be fulfilled.
We’re going to go right into a time of prayer this morning. During Advent the prayers of the people will be a song and a breathing prayer. Let’s learn the song we are going to sing during our prayer in the coming month: “Make of My Heart a Stable”

Prayers of the People - ‘Make of My Heart a Stable”