James 5:7-8 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
We have come to the 3rd Sunday in Advent, this is the Sunday we light the pink candle, pink is a symbol of hope. Sometimes I think we live in an age that has no hope, not because there is no aspiration for greatness, but rather whatever we want, we want it now, and we seem unwilling to wait, everything else in this age is instant, from instant food, ready made cloths, prefab homes, to the can, our instant transportation. There may be some who say, non of the things are instant, they are slow, we have to wait, often there is a line at the drive up window, and it still takes time to get from one place to another.
But step back in time, imagine that all clothes come only after you have woven the fabric, and then it still must be cut and sewn. Imagine that all food, came only as raw ingredients, and to eat, you must prepare it. Imagine that your home can be built only after the trees have been cut, and the logs hewn into lumber – and imagine that you must forge each nail by hand. And when you want to do somewhere, imagine that first you must hitch up the horses. And if we are busy now, how would be get anything done if we lived back then? We might talk about them as the good old days, but if we found ourselves there, would we find them so good?
Hope is something coming, but not here yet. And to have hope, you must have faith that, that which is now unseen, that which is only a distant promise, will come to pass. And not only must you have faith, but you must have patience, for while it will come, it will only come when the time is right. Now there is a curious thing, for those people who don’t really have faith, are usually also short of patience.
Our text talks about farmers, having both faith and patience as they hope for the harvest. And while we know this, we are often not very good about encouraging one another towards faith and patience. For example, we’ve all heard people, talking over coffee about the weather, and the outlook for the crop – just about always the mood is gloomy, for what ever the weather is, it is not quite right – which leads people to doubt if there is going to be a crop. Sometimes you might even hear someone say, for 2 bits I’d walk away from it all. I’ve got a pastor friend who is somewhat of a practical joker, so he opened his wallet, pulled out 5 bucks, and said "Here, keep the change!" There was a lot of back pedaling in the moments that followed, which finally resolved in a chorus, from all the others at coffee, "Pastor, its clear you just don’t know what he means!" Which was true, for although there was talk that sounded like one who had given up hope, hope remained.
This young pastor was full of pride, telling of how when folks gathered for coffee, they no longer talked in gloomy tones – and if we would just follow his example, we could turn our towns around as well. We all smiled politely, and in that instant, I realized that perhaps we were just like all the other folks at coffee. While I do not believe that one event can change a whole town, I think the point is somewhat different, and rather important – that is – it is important for all of us to encourage one another in patience, in faith, in hope and in love. And the best encouragement of all is in God’s Word, where we see countless examples of how God always keeps His Word, and fulfills all promises. Advent may be all about God’s promise to send a Savior, but on the 3rd Sunday, its not the nearness of such a coming, nor is it a focus on the need to get ready, for the focus is squarely on the hope that is ours, because there is a Savior, and because he is coming.
God plants seeds of faith, and they grow. God sends the rains, and growth continues. Our hope is not just in a resurrection from the dead, and an everlasting life – rather our hope is that not only will all this be ours, but also, that our lives will be fruitful, and having been brought to faith, we will go out bringing with us the good news, so that we may bring others to the knowledge of the only savior from sin, the only way of salvation, and the forgiveness which comes from God which gives peace to our hearts.
In the same way that we love, because God first loved us, so also we are patient, as we remember how God has been patient with us. And in patience, we encourage one another in faith, in love, and in hope; the only 3 things which remain till the end.