What on earth has Daniel in the lion’s den got to do with advent?!
Also, how can I weave into all of that something of what I have experienced in the past week?!
It's a valid question, but, before I attempt to develop that, let me begin with advent itself.
We have our themes: hope, peace, joy and love
We have another set of themes for this year’s readings: dreams and visions
And we have new start, new beginnings, new horizons, as we begin a new church year.
This week we have hope and we have visions. For Daniel was an exile and a prophet. He was incarcerated because he refused to worship another God, because he stood up for what he believed in, because he would rather face death than betray God.
He had been blessed with a vision from God which changed his life, changed him. His faith, his determination to resist protected him.
Advent is all about dreams and visions, about waiting patiently for God to do a wondrous thing. During the past week I have witnessed what should be, could be, desperate situations- but within it all I also witnessed pockets of hope. Pockets of God's grace in action. Pockets of determination to stay alive against all odds, to live in hope against all odds, to resist the temptation to give up.
We heard stories of pain and persecution of trauma and desolation, and yet each story was also wrapped in hope. The source came from amazing People who dedicate their lives to following God's call and offering hope, peace, joy and love where it did not exist. This is what it means to be Advent People. This is what it means to live out faith under the most extreme circumstances.
For me, one of the mostly holy things I observed was teachers working for a pittance, willing to love and witness to the love of God with children and their families. They offered education where none was available. They offered, love, compassion, kindness, patience, an opportunity to learn, regardless of nationality or religious affiliation. These Christian teachers, taught Muslim children, children for whom there was no place in the system. Children whose status is negligible; who had suffered such trauma, such abuse; yet, all these teachers saw was children who needed a chance, needed stability, needed hope, needed to know that not everyone is bad, not everyone will exploit them, not everyone seeks to use them for their own selfish means.
It was pure grace.
Pure grace in action.
It was hope.
It was love and compassion.
And it gave me hope.
In our scripture today we heard of one snapshot of Daniels life. It was not the first time he had been under threat, for in each generation that he served during his exile he faced persecution and abuse. And each time he relied on God to come to his aid, to prevail.
As we begin our advent season. As we wait in anticipation to hear again the stories of the nativity, let us remember that faith and hope are not confined to the bible. Not confined to Old Testament tales, but that through faith in our God, and his Son Jesus, there are people who still rely on God to come to their aid, to help them prevail against all odds.
These people are the living stones. They live by faith. They hope against hope that a day will come when they do not need to do the work, but until that day comes they are Advent People. Waiting, preparing for the Advent of Hope.
For Syria. For Lebanon. For all God’s people. In all places.
And that, that gives us hope too.