The hope that John the Baptist describes in Luke 3:5-6 is cataclysmic:
Every valley shall be filled,and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God
This is not an image of bulldozers that level out countryside hills to create the pleasant, smooth world of suburbia.
God's bulldozers are not called in to wipe the forests clean and fill the swamps, n order to make room for our golf courses.
Mountains will be not be ripped down in order to make the ways smooth for our shopping-malls, motorways, and airport runways.
People, like us, need to understand that the hope of Advent isn't our hope.
The hope of Advent is the hope that Mary describes in Luke 1:52-53:
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,and sent the rich away empty.
The hope represented by the dirt-poor baby born in Bethlehem is the hope that people like us
will be overthrown so that all humanity can be set free from the social order of Caesar.
The hope of Advent is not the reassurance of people who have always been winning.
The hope of Advent is the desperate longing of people who have never won
and have no reason to expect that they ever will.
Why is this never realised in our churches?
Our advent-calendar chocolates should turn to ashes in our complacent mouths?
All of our sufferings are just abstract, ideological, and metaphysical.
We want meaning and purpose when other people simply want to survive.
But can we still hope for the impossible world that Isaiah describes:
where swords are bent into ploughshares, mountains are flattened,
and lions lie down with lambs?
Hope still remains when we hope for the impossible and struggle
against what most people consider reasonable or at least inevitable.
But do we even struggle, or are we happier as we are