Several years ago, members of the Bible study group I attended were debating what to study next. We had studied a few of the shorter books of the Bible and tackled Revelation. Finally, George, whom we thought of as the elder among us, said, “Let’s study Habakkuk.” We asked him why he thought this might be the next to be studied. George replied, “When I get to heaven and meet Habakkuk, and he asks me what I thought of his book, I don’t want the embarrassment of telling him that I haven’t read it.” Of course, that logic could have been applied to any book with a named author, but we were convinced and duly studied Habakkuk’s book. As for George, he’s had a few years now to catch up with Habakkuk, so I hope the conversation between the two of them was fruitful!
Habakkuk could certainly be writing for our times – even more precisely for November 2015 – with his words about violence and men of violence “more menacing than wolves at dusk”. We know they are there; maybe we sense a slightly darker form moving in the shadows. We anticipate an attack but we don’t know where and when it will come. Although the violent work of ISIL extremists is in the name of their faith, “their own might is their god” seems closer to the truth.
As I write this, Advent is almost upon us. When you read this, it will have begun. It’s a time of remembering God’s promises of a child born to be our Saviour, of a triumphant Lord returning to earth to rule in justice. Many would doubt the identity of the babe in a manger. Many would not even consider the possibility of him returning in power. A ridiculous, empty hope that weak people cling on to in the face of reality. Yet God assured Habakkuk that the vision had not disappeared; it surely would come at the appointed time, whenever that may be. God keeps his promises.
At Advent the community of Anglicans of Second Life enact a Posada. Mary and Joseph ‘travel’ from home to home, church to chapel, field to garden, as different people offer to play host to them for 24 hours. We visit Mary and Joseph and socialise together, remembering that first journey to Bethlehem just before Jesus’ birth. A sense of community grows as we gather from around the globe, with different cultures and perspectives. What we have in common is our faith. Together in this season we lift our heads in hope despite what we see going on around us in the world. Like Habakkuk, we remember that God is in his holy temple. We recall the works of God and we stand in awe of him.
Though the innocent die violent deaths in the city,
and no one can feel secure;
though thousands take risks in the search for safety,
and many are met with hostility;
though world leaders seem powerless to help,
and no one has a coherent plan,
yet we will rejoice in the Lord;
we will exult in the God of our salvation.
May you have a blessed Advent.