In many Protestant churches, the first candle lit during Advent symbolizes hope. When I think of the word hope, I immediately picture Shepard Fairey's iconic poster that was used for Barack Obama's first presidential campaign. Before you fly off in one political direction or another, the thing that interests me about that poster is that it was a call to action. The idea was not to get people to simply hope in Obama's candidacy. Rather it was an attempt to mobilize people to join his campaign. In that context, all the hope in the world would have meant nothing if it did not provoke some sort of action. A passive hope would not have elected our now-President to office.
Jeremiah is a weird poster boy for hope. He is often referred to as the Weeping Prophet. And when you're considered the Debbie Downer of a group that is known for being bearers of bad news, that's saying something. Yet Jeremiah has his moments. Like in the Old Testament lectionary passage for today. Jeremiah 33:14-16 begins:
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill my promise...
It doesn't say "The day might come," or "The day will come, but not for a really, really long time." No, the day is surely coming; as if it that day is running towards us and could be just around the bend. That kind of statement in hope in its most potent form and it's all courtesy of this Weeping Prophet.
Yet Jeremiah's hope is not simply an encouragement for his people to wait for rescue. It's an invitation to join a campaign. Not a campaign to elect someone to office, but to join in the work that God is doing. The day is surely coming when God will execute righteousness and justice. Do not lose heart. Do not give up on doing what is right and true.
Much of Advent centers around hope. We remember the coming of Jesus at Christmas and look forward to when he will return as God makes all things right. For many that hope for the future is passive yet this is not what it is supposed to be. As Jeremiah's hope calls his people to action, the hope of Advent makes that same call of us. Our hope is supposed to be an active one that spurs us to righteousness and justice. We hope that God will truly do what God promises to do. And then we live that hope out.