December 10, 2017 – “Hope”

Today’s text is from Ezekiel 37:1-14.

We’re getting to that time of the year where the air makes you catch your breath. Those frosty mornings when you step outside and the icy air burns your nose and your throat.

I’m not a fan of these days. Why we live in a place where it hurts to breathe is beyond me. And yet with each breath, with each passing moment that cold air rushes into our warm body, we’re reminded of God’s very presence.

See, for the majority of our lives breathing is something we don’t even think about. The oldest parts of our brain handle this basic yet crucial aspect of our lives.

So, it’s on the rare occasions where we’re reminded of our breathing, where we can actually feel the cold rush of air burning down our throats.

Because God is in the air. God is on the wind. God’s breath of life is on your lips. And with God’s Spirit, God’s breath, God’s life giving presence by our side, we have nothing to fear.

But that’s easier said than done. The people of Israel have grown weary in exile. They’ve lost their sense of purpose, identity, they’ve given up hope.

This hope piece is crucial. Hope of returning to Jerusalem. Hope of resuming their old lives again. Hope that God would rescue them now.

Hope is a beautiful thing. It motivates us. Encourages us. Lifts us up. Reminds us that tomorrow will arrive.

But then there are moments that catch our breath. Moments that would take the hope from us. Moments that can turn into days and weeks and months and years and lifetimes.

Moments that catch our breath and make us swallow in the icy air of desolation and fear.

This is the field of bones Ezekiel finds himself in. Bones that represent a people in exile that have lost all hope. Bones that represent a people who have been cast out, thrown into the fiery furnaces, and told this moment, this icy air, is going to last a lifetime.

But as Ezekiel stands there he realizes he’s not alone. The wind, the breath, the spirit of God fills the valley. And it fills Ezekiel, and the people, with hope.

Because we worship a God of reversals. We worship a God of surprises. We worship a God that turns everything we know upside down.

We worship a God that takes death and makes life. A God that is visibly, audibly, and physically present in every breath you take.

Now this wind, this breath, this spirit of God doesn’t promise to instantly reverse our problems. For the people of Israel there was no getting out of exile so easily.

The same often holds true in our lives. That sometimes no matter how much we pray the disease remains. Sometimes our family won’t get back together. Sometimes a job falls through. Sometimes we can’t afford to pay our bills and buy food. Sometimes it feels as if we too, like the Israelites, are stranded.

Stranded with no chance of getting out. The icy air has caught itself in our throats and these moments that can turn into lifetimes burn with each passing breath.

But know this: God is in the wind, God’s very breath gives you life. For it’s in these moments of pain, moments of exile, moments of fiery furnace, that we can have hope.

For you have the breath of God. You have the Spirit of God by your side. You are created in God’s image. And this spirit of God will give you new life.

For it is in these moments, the moments where we catch our breath, that we realize God was with us the whole time.

This is the promise we wait for in Advent: The promise of God with us. The promise that God’s spirit will never leave our side.

Sometimes that breath will be easy to take, yet oftentimes it’ll be as difficult as a cold and snowy day.

But you can have hope because our God turns death into life. Our God takes a valley of desolation and turns it into a mark of creation.

It’s not always easy. This vision shown to Ezekiel of dead bodies coming to life was not going to immediately change the fortunes of the Israelites. Exile couldn’t end that easily.

Just like how oftentimes pain and suffering remains in our lives. Not because we deserve it, not because God has ordained it, but perhaps because there is a season and a time for everything.

As we wander through this Advent season with snow on the ground and cold in the air we do so with a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

We hope, we wait, we pray. We hope for the promise coming of the Savior, and we wait and pray with the very breath and spirit of God by our side. For you are never alone: God is with you.