We had the most unusual Thanksgiving I’ve ever had in my life last week.
We celebrated Easter.
It happened kind of by accident.
Our normal tradition is to set a bonfire in the clearing
either the day of Thanksgiving or even sometimes the day before
but then the challenge becomes keeping the fire going all weekend long…Thursday through Sunday.
In the autumn this can be interesting because sometimes it rains
and sometimes it can even be a torrential rain.
But that’s the challenge…to keep it going the whole weekend long….
I have been really impressed in past years by
how my daughters and granddaughters have learned
how to bring the fire back to life after one of these gully washers of a fire.
But the pile of logs has always been setting all summer
and they would be large thick logs of oak and pine maybe only a year
from cutting so once they’ve become coals they will hold their heat
and they don’t die easily.
Anyway, this year the wind was pretty high
and Beaven didn’t want anyone to start a fire until Friday
when the wind was due to die down
so we faced restless young adults after lunch was over on Thursday.
They ended up looking through the cabinet where I keep decorations
and there they found an old box of Easter egg dye
left over from years ago and decided to dye eggs.
I know most families decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving.
I don’t know where I went wrong.
But instead of putting up our tree like most sane families
after dinner on Thanksgiving Day our kids dyed Easter eggs.
Why can’t we celebrate Easter anytime we want to?
Even on the first Sunday of Advent.
And it’s not a bad thing for us to stop and think about
right now before we get into the frenzy of the season.
We’re going to end up with a baby before it’s over.
Shouldn’t we read the book, that classic book,
“What to expect when you’re expecting?”
Except maybe we need the theological version of the book.
What are we going to end up with?
We’re going to end up with a cross after that manger.
Jesus himself told us that we will need to be alert
and that we will need strength.
But he also gives us the example of the sprout of the fig tree.
He said that as soon as they saw the first sprout on the tree
they could count on fruit from the tree.
We can look for signs of the Kingdom of God all around us.
We can draw Hope from things we see.
And Jesus focused on the Hope after the cross.
The next day the wind died down
and the girls went out to light their bonfire.
It’s been one of our family’s greatest traditions
to sit around a fire for a couple of days.
We’ll alternate going out to check on it whenever we bored with the TV
or conversation inside the house.
We save wood up all year and this year it was especially tall.
Sure enough, we were able to spend all day Friday on the fire,
lighting it, controlling it, then adding more wood,
gathering it together, shaping it, banking it
and putting it to bed for the night.
I love to watch the process of waking the fire up in the morning.
Just by adding the right combination of kindling
in just the right way to what looks like a pile of gray ashes
you can coax a miracle of flames from the coals like always.
But then it started to mist
and the weather forecast called for a light rain most of the day.
Now here’s the part where I want to talk about HOPE.
The kind of hope we’re going to talk about here
and the kind the bible is talking
about isn’t just some idle, pie-in-the-sky hope,
as in “I hope a Prince will come on a white horse
and marry me someday” kind of hope.
I’m talking about the kind of hope that is the close cousin of Faith.
It’s the hope that is rooted in experience.
In fact, you could even say it is Faith that has roots.
One of the images that is used to explain Christ’s coming at Advent
is the Root of Jesse or the Root of David.
The image is usually a huge tree trunk that has been cut down
with a new tree sprout come up out of the tree trunk
and growing from the seemingly dead trunk.
This is to graphically illustrate Christ being the new branch
of the roots of his genealogy.
Many times you will hear Christ referred to as the root of Jesse.
And that’s because our Hope in Christ has solid roots.
Our hope in Christ is solid.
It won’t fall over in a strong wind.
So, my daughter and granddaughters
kept building a fire in the rain based on confidence and knowledge
of something powerful:
they had experience on their side.
They had done this before
and they knew they could do it again.
They knew the amount and type of rain they were up against;
they knew the coals and the kind of wood they were putting on the fire.
They had a confidence of knowing what they were dealing with.
They had Hope but it wasn’t a blind hope.
It was a hope built on experience and trust.
Later in the weekend,
I saw photos from one of the kids I watched grow up
except he’s not a kid anymore.
He was one of our church youth
that I’ve known since he was in elementary school.
Chad is pushing 50 now and has two kids of his own.
He’s in town for the holidays to see his family
on leave from his job with the military.
He has been working for the Navy since he got out of high school mostly.
First, he was in the army then he re-enlisted in the Navy
(I think—it could have been the other way around)
then he went into a specialized branch with languages.
About 15 or 20 years ago—early in war with Afghanistan
he had both of his legs blown off.
The church did what church does best.
We had a special prayer service to pray for his life.
We prayed for his recovery.
And we prayed for his emotional and mental health.
And God did the rest.
When I saw the pictures last week
I saw a healthy guy relaxing and enjoying life.
A guy who loves his job still working in the Navy at a desk,
who has a great wife and kids,
who loves to go hunting and all the other things veterans in his shape do.
He is a guy who has a lot of Hope.
And it’s a hope built on confidence in a God
he has had a lot of experience with and knows he can count on.
It’s not an idle hope.
It’s a hope rooted in solid ground.
Let’s look at the gospel for a minute.
And to start with clear up one of the verses that may be confusing us.
I know it kind of distracted me.
When Jesus said in verse 33 that
“Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away
until all things have taken place. “
Did he actually mean
that the people he was talking to could go home
and mark their calendars and wait?
My bible commentary says “no,”
that when all is said and sifted through,
defining who he was talking to and all things taken into consideration
Jesus was emphasizing the authority of his words;
saying that we could bank on what he was saying.
These things that he was saying would certainly take place.
But not necessarily within 20 years.
Then he gets to the point.
Jesus tells us if we get discouraged, we can look for the sprouts……
what do the sprouting green leaves of hope look like?
They are all around us.
And you could name them as well as I could.
The people smiling at each other in the middle of the Christmas rush.
You are as good as I am in describing what the Kingdom of God looks like.
I don’t need to take time to list it here.
We’ll have enough time ourselves waiting in lines over the next four weeks.
Look for the sprouts!
Whenever you have a few extra seconds of waiting time
over the Christmas season, make that your new hobby,
Look for the green sprouts of hope
for the signs of the Kingdom of God.
Be alert to them.
Jesus wants us to watch for certain signs and to be alert at all times.
When these things happen we will know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Finally, a definition of this hope comes from a contemporary theologian—meaning that this guy is still living.
Juegen Moltmann, 95 years old, lives in Germany.