December 23, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Micah 5:2-5
Luke 1:39-55


I once watched a fascinating and breath-taking documentary on television called the Blue Planet II. It was narrated by the world-famous biologist, David Attenborough. The section that I watched discussed mainly about the coral reefs of our seas. 

Coral reefs have the highest biodiversity than any ecosystem in our planet, including our modern cities. It has even more diversity than tropical rainforests. They only occupy around one percent of the ocean floor. Yet, they are home to more than a quarter of living creatures in the ocean. 

The documentary that I watched focuses mainly on the Great Barrier Reef in the northeastern of Australia. As many of you know, the reef is in serious danger. Corals are stressed by changes in the condition of the water, such as changes in temperature, light, or nutrients. The rising of the temperature of the water, especially, could cause the corals to turn completely white. This is a process that is often called as coral bleaching. What used to be rich, colorful, metropolitan cities of the underwater had become white, uninhabited place. Science predicts that if coral bleaching continues in current rate, in the near future, coral reef will be a thing in the past. 

But, there is hope. Corals can spawn. They spawn by releasing their tiny polyps, or eggs and sperms into the ocean. These new ‘seeds’ would then fill the empty places of the ocean floors, creating new coral reefs. But science warns that this can only occur if there are surviving corals.

The story of our corals is also the story of our humanity. Just like the survival of corals depends on the new generation of corals, our hope also rests on our next generations.

Let’s go back to our reading today from the book of Micah. Our reading was written during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army. In military world, a siege is meant to destroy hope, any hope. Hope is about possibilities. On the other hand, a siege is designed to close down all possibilities.[1]

But the job of a prophet, like Micah, was to give hope nonetheless. Maybe, there was not much hope for Jerusalem during the siege. But that was not the end of God’s story with Israel. There was still hope for Israel’s future. And that hope rested on the baby who would be born in Bethlehem. He would do what current generation of leaders were unable to do. He would bring peace and security to Israel.

Friends, the image of a newborn always evokes the image of hope in our minds. A baby reminds us of what is possible in life. A baby is like a blank paper that is unblemished by the mistakes of the current generation.

Fast forward into the future, we again encounter the promise of hope, embodied in baby Jesus and John. The future of Israel rested on these two babies. The current generation had failed to deliver the people from the bondage of their own sins. Jesus and John would achieve what their current leaders had failed. 

Today, in our reading from Luke, we only hear from their mothers; of the anticipation and excitement that they carried in their wombs. These two mothers would play crucial roles in the developments of their sons, Jesus and John. But God’s plan for their children would surpass their parenthood. That’s why both Mary and Elizabeth were over the moon by their pregnancy. God had chosen them to play a role in the redemption of their people. 

Friends, today, we too welcome two children in our midst, Harper and Willow. Our role is to nurture the next generation, like them, as best as we can. Our future, indeed: the future of the world, rests on children like them.

But we shall not try to duplicate ourselves in our children. The poem from Kahlil Gibran, an American-Lebanese poet, that we read earlier reminds us of this. Our children come through us, but they don’t belong to us. We are the children of yesterday. They are the children of tomorrow. As such, they should create their own tomorrow, not recreating our past. They belong to God who will mold and use them accordingly. As such, we find our hope in them, just Mary and Elizabeth had their hope in their babies.

Friends, our generation has often failed our duty. We have ruined the world where we live. Consumption goes wild and continues to grow rampantly at the expense of our planet. We are creatures of habits and old habits die hard, including those habits that had caused so much damage.

Our hope is that the future generation will be able to reverse the damage that our generation has caused. Therefore, our role is to provide the platform for them to flourish. We are to provide the space so that they can become coworker with God to care for creation.

So, is there hope for our world? Yes, there is. Why? Well, first of all, because a baby was born on Christmas Day. And that baby was a symbol of renewal. A symbol of new beginning, unblemished by the past. In him and through him, we know that forgiveness and redemption are real; that we can move forward to a brighter future without being shackled by our sins in the past.

That baby reminds us of our own children and grand-children and great-grandchildren. Our role is to be like Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth and Zechariah. We are to prepare our children for their future and guide them. But we shall not lead them. They are the ones who should lead us into the future because the future belongs to them, not us. For this reason, we have every reason to be hopeful.

Toby Keva

[1] Adam Hearlson, Commentary on Micah 5:2-5a, on (December 23, 2018).