The First Sunday in Advent

those who dream...keep awake (hope)

Focal scriptures: Mark 13:24-37 | Isaiah 64:1-9 | Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Big Idea: Those who dream do not fall asleep to the realities of the world. God prompts us to pay attention
to where God’s dreams for change and new life are emerging. In Advent, we remember that God’s
ultimate dream is to be intimately connected to us—to come down and dwell among us. As we keep
awake, we join Isaiah and the psalmist in pleading for restoration and for God to draw near.

Commentary on Mark 13:24-37 | By Dr. Marcia Y. Riggs
As we light the Advent candle of hope, we keep awake by dreaming, by envisioning how we will live out God’s promise to be with us. We expect God to be with us and meet us on the other side of this pandemic and protest. For the other side of pandemic and protest is not a return to “normal”; it is living the hope of God’s continuing revelation of justice. We do not know the day or the hour, but we do know as the African American poet Langston Hughes says:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.2
—Dr. Marcia Y. Riggs, J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA.

2 Hughes, Langston. "Dreams.” The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of
Harold Ober Associates, Inc.

Guiding Questions:
* This passage in Mark is sometimes referred to as the “Little Apocalypse.” The Greek meaning of apocalypse is “revelation”—an unfolding or unveiling of things not previously known. What in our world right now feels like a “Little Apocalypse”? What is disruptive, disorienting, and threatening? In the midst of that turmoil, what is being revealed to us?
* What does it look like to live with a posture of “wakefulness”—attentive to ourselves, others, and to God?
* What are the dreams we carry with us into this Advent season? What dreams from this past year have unraveled or been deferred? What new dreams must be nurtured in this season?
* Walter Brueggemann calls lament an “act of bold faith.” What is the relationship between lament and hope?

Quotes for Inspiration:
“It is a strange way to begin this time of Advent. Beginning Advent with weeping and lament? That is
unusual! And powerful. This is where we need to begin. The coming of Advent jolts the church out of
Ordinary Time with the invasive news that it’s time to think about fresh possibilities for deliverance and
human wholeness.”

—Patricia E. De Jong. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 1. Advent Through Transfiguration. David L. Bartlett and
Barbara Brown Taylor, Editors. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. 4.

“Hope means we have opened our eyes, hearts, minds, souls, very spirits
and now see and feel and touch and smell the joy and the agony living in the fractures of creation
that is the irony of hope
for in our yearning for it
we often walk far away from it as we try to come home to it
we often live into the small and narrow spaces of life that stunt our growth
and demand far too little of us
because far too little is expected from us
or far too little gives us comfort
hope is one more piece to the fabric of the universe
one more way to signal this restless journey we are on
one more sign that Emmaus is not the end of the journey
but its beginning
you see, I don’t think hope is the end product on the assembly line of our lives
no, I think it is simply a part of the journey
part of the way in which we come to know God’s way in our lives with a richness that ripens and ripens
and ripens . . .”

—Emilie M. Townes. From the transcript of her keynote address at the “Migration and Border Crossings” Conference
co-hosted by Columbia Seminary and the Emory Center for Law and Religion, February 2019. The full transcript is
featured in Columbia Theological Seminary’s online publication, @ This Point—Theological Investigations in Church
and Culture, Fall 2019—Vol. 13, No.2.

“The use of these ‘psalms of darkness’ may be judged by the world to be acts of unfaith and failure, but
for the trusting community, their use is an act of bold faith, albeit a transformed faith. It is an act of bold
faith on the one hand, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some
pretended way. On the other hand, it is bold because it insists that all such experiences of disorder are
a proper subject for discourse with God. Nothing is out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate.
Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart.”

—Walter Brueggemann. Spirituality of the Psalms. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002. 27.

“And lament is resistance, too. Because it's paradoxically rooted in the hope of God. Lament is prophetic
because it speaks to realities that we are called to bring to bear in the here and now. It is kingdom-here.
Lament is inconvenient because it makes us stop in the precipice between life and death where we see that
it is a space that we all actually occupy simply by virtue of being human. Lament is business-NOT-as-usual,
and it is stopping and blockading traffic, and it is hashtags and Twitter teach-ins because it leads us further
up and further in. This is a strange season—I keep thinking about vulnerability, suffering, dying and living
well. It's the thread of lament that compels me to see that the struggle is what makes us alive. But it is too
real... For so many of us. I wonder what it would mean that the practice of lament, of grieving, would be a
way of knowing, a way of living, a way of loving.”

—Mihee Kim-Kort. From her blog, “Practicing Our Faith: Grief.”