Sub Dean - The Reverend Canon Michael Rawson
If you were hoping that the Sub Dean wasn't preaching this afternoon. I'm sorry to disappoint you.
If you're hoping that it will be a white Christmas, then after this morning we could be in with a chance.
If you're hoping that life will be easier and less frantic in 2018, we will have to wait and see.
We all seem to spend much of our lives hoping. But what does hope really mean? The dictionary suggests that hope is 'a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen'. Synonyms associated with hope include aspiration, wish, plan, dream and daydream.
In this season of Advent, there is much in our readings, prayers and music about the Advent hope of Christ. Is all of this on the same level as a wish or daydream? I'd like to suggest Advent Hope is far from the hoping most of us do most of the time. In the second reading this afternoon St Paul mentions the word hope four times. For him, hope lies at the very heart of the gospel. Everything written in what we refer to as the Old Testament scriptures, point to and gives us hope in believing. Paul writes from first hand experience that the hope God calls us to does not airbrush pain and disaster but rather underlines that God is faithfully by our side, allowing us to face anything that life throws at us. The last sentence of the reading sums up all that Paul is seeking to put across to the Christians in Rome.
'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.'
This is not about human effort or achievement but rather a gift from God to God's people. The hope that Paul outlines is neither pie in the sky nor does it ignore the often harsh realities of life. Through Paul's own experience and life of faith he is confident in the promises and hope of God. The Divine hope, the hope of Advent, take us from the mundane and allows us to view the world and our own lives through the lens of God.
Looking around the world and around our neighbourhoods it is sometimes hard to be hopeful - the increase in street homelessness, the upheaval and uncertainties of Brexit, the new situation in Jerusalem and continuing fears about terrorism. That's all before we begin to look at the personal difficulties we face as individuals each day.
Christian hope is a gift that we have to share with an uncertain and fearful world. As disciples of Christ we are called to live in hope and to share that hope with others.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote that
'hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.'
Keeping Advent is not easy in itself when the celebrations of Christmas began for many a couple of weeks ago. And yet for us Advent is about looking beyond the present, seeking the light of Christ in the midst of darkness and holding out that light to 'shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.'
As we long for the coming of Christ at Christmas and at the end of time may he give our world a new reason for hope and peace and joy.