Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent 2013, Week 1: Hope for the Wounded

My friend and almost-sister Sonnie noticed the mole and went in for yet another battery of tests.

My friend Jane noticed the bloating, couldn't endure the pain and went to the emergency room.

The news was not good for either of them.

O God, we want to cry, Why now? Why at this season? Why ever?

And this is the day we are supposed to focus on the first Sunday in Advent, ushering in the Season of Hope.

It was with a heavy heart that my car, Josephine, and I groped our way through the heavy fog to Big Valley Church. The road stretched long and lonely, winding down and down to the one-lane bridge:

The weather and scheduled vacations combined to reduce the number of worshipers.

The music stubbornly refused to give way to the hearts of the musicians trying to lead the singing.

When finally it was time for Pastor Allan Clark to speak, I was exhausted, without heart; without hope.

And the first thing he said, as he lit the Advent candle, was "Today we are going to learn about the Season of Hope."

Hope is so much more than wishing your football team wins the Grey Cup, or longing for a great home-cooked meal, he said.

A dictionary definition of hope is "a wish or desire accompanied by the expectation of its fulfilment." Hope itself is authored by God himself, Pastor Alan went on. After humankind's first act of disobedience, God made a promise: 
I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:15, ESV

And then he went on to touch on a few of the great figures of the Bible who - in the worst of circumstances - continued to have hope. Job, who suffered losses beyond belief in every way, physical, material, spiritual, emotional, still could say, in Job 19:23-27, that the hope of being in God's presence is what carried him through all his trials and tribulations.

Mighty King David, who managed to get himself embroiled in scandals or enmeshed in sorrow on a number of occasions, recognized in Psalm 71:5 that God was his hope, and not status, victory and wealth. That's why, time and again, he was able to come back and recommit his way to God with a repentant heart, seeking to get back into a right relationship with the one person who could give him lasting hope.

It was revealed to Paul, that great apostle, at the time of his conversion to Christianity how much he was going to have to suffer for God: Acts 9:15-16. And yet Paul had hope - later I pondered 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, which gives us this tremendous declaration:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (ESV)

Paul discovered the secret of hope; he experienced it for himself. He knew that our hope originates in God, that the only way we can have a hope-filled life is to abide in God. 

People will fail us. 

We will fail ourselves.

Only God will not fail.

The Lord Jesus Christ himself had hope, Pastor Allan went on. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus saw past the immediate pain and suffering, past God his Father turning his face away from his Son, past the crucifixion, to see what was going to be accomplished by his Father through Jesus the Son dying on the cross and rising again. What Jesus accomplished on the cross 33 years after the birth we celebrate at this season provides the key on which - if we receive him - we will build our own hope on.

"Our hope is not found in our physical well-being, but founded in a God who loves us, who has good things planned for us," Pastor Allan summarized. "Thus we can glorify God through our circumstances."

And so to my beloved Sonnie and Jane, to my friends Lorne and Becky, to Beth, to Dad's friend Paul, to Sonnie's friend Colleen; to all of us who are wounded in one way or another at this so-called festive season, I leave you with the note my perspicacious 21-year-old nephew Matt wrote to his dear Sonnie:

It's a fight. You're the only one in the ring; a boxer. All the training, all the previous battles, they're done...nearly's you and your opponent, toe to toe. You begin to lose confidence and feel isolated. No one can bail you out, this is all on you. Now you feel lonely, then you hear "Hit 'em with all you've got!" It's a familiar voice, so you're not distracted; nay, you're emboldened, strengthened by it. This is the voice of your trainer, the chief of your corner. Now you remember that you didn't come here alone. The people in your corner, though they may have changed over the years, are your people. And this trainer? He's seen you through every fight, and always been there to give you words of advice and courage meant when you get knocked down. The people in your corner? They've been to some of your other bouts, and they want to see you win. They're cheering you on. They know they can't jump in the ring and actually fight for you, so between rounds they Q-tip your cuts and reduce your swelling. They pour water in your mouth, and while all this is happening, you're focused. Not on your opponent, not on your people, but on your trainer. You know that even though you're in the fight, He's got a plan for it. And win or lose, He'll see you through it. All any trainer wants us for their fighter to listen to their instructions and have faith that they know what's best. 

Sonnie, I just want you to know that my family - our family - the family of God is in your corner. The Lord is in charge, and He has a fight strategy planned out. He knows how it'll go down because He knows us better than we know ourselves, but He doesn't tell us because He wants to see that we can trust in His word and instruction, and that win or lose, He is with us and loves us. It's our faith in Him to lead us that counts, not our performance in the ring. The thing is, He knows that it gets lonely in a 1 on 1 fight, so He brings people to support us and stand in our corner, to cheer us on. People He knows will mourn if we lose and rejoice if we win, who hold out for us no matter if we get knocked down and stagger up or win in the first round. People who through the whole fight want to be there to support us and hope we win. The trainer is the only one who knows, and the corner offers support, because He knows we need it. God's got a plan, and we've got your back. We love you Sonnie. Try as you might to get rid of us, we are in your corner, cheering you on in your fight.

"Win or lose." Active, living HOPE.

Advent wreath at Big Valley Church


  1. Sometimes it all hurts so much and the pain that is down deep in a person's heart just seems to go on and on. The sadness is there all the time. It never leaves. It's heavy. It feels like a burden. Sometimes it's even hard to breathe.

    There's a verse God gave me a few days ago and I am trying my best to work it into my life so that my heart is strengthened by Him. As I lift my tear-stained eyes in hope and expectation to His wonderful face, He smiles upon me. He reminds me it's not about a different set of circumstances. It's about abiding in Christ regardless of the circumstances.

    Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

  2. Dear Rosalie - Pastor Alan actually quoted this verse in his sermon ... thank you for reiterating this paean of hope. Thank you for taking the time to write this, for summoning the courage to be vulnerable. Your words - and you - are a great encouragement in this season.

  3. Karyn ... Words can not express how this message has touched me also you are an amazing woman and a fabulous sister! I am grateful to have Matthew he is a heart for God and with that heart he comforts and reminds me who is in my corner! I love both of you very much! Where did you snag the picture? Lol

    1. Well, Deb - of course!! The one who holds us all together with love and compassion and wisdom.

  4. What news of Hane? There's talk of the Myrmidons needing a fourth.

  5. Hello, dear Karyn: Thanks for what you've written. Once again i am reminded of a verse from the OT, Jeremiah if I'm not mistaken: "I have loved you with an age-old love. Again I shall rebuild you, and you shall be rebuilt." The author was talking about Jerusalem, but I'm applying it to my old carcass. Sure, getting a diagnosis of cancer is both unbelievable and daunting, initially. Then you just get on with things. What I've been surprised by is what I can only call a state of loving grace. I get sudden waves of intense love for the people in my life, for the landscape, for everything. I cannot get over how lucky I am. So yeah, cancer, but wow, perspective. Thank you again, Karyn. My love to you and your family for the Christmas season and always.


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