Habakkuk 1:1-7; 2:1-4; 3:3b-6, 17-19
The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
Look at the nations, and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.
For I am rousing the Chaldeans,
that fierce and impetuous nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
Dread and fearsome are they;
their justice and dignity proceed from themselves.
I will stand at my watch-post,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
His glory covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
The brightness was like the sun;
rays came forth from his hand,
where his power lay hidden.
Before him went pestilence,
and plague followed close behind.
He stopped and shook the earth;
he looked and made the nations tremble.
The eternal mountains were shattered;
along his ancient pathways
the everlasting hills sank low.
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread upon the heights.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a man who was driving down the road late one night, speeding quite a bit. As it so happened, a cop who was sitting along that road also noticed how fast he was going and pulled him over. The cop said to the man, “Are you aware of how fast you were going?” The man replied, “Why, yes I am. I’m trying to escape a robbery I got involved in.” The cop gave him a skeptical look and said, “Were you the one being robbed?” The man casually replied, “No, I committed the robbery.” The cop looked shocked that the man would admit this. “So you’re telling me you were speeding…AND committed a robbery?” “Yes,” the man calmly said. “And I have the loot in the back.” The cop began to get angry. “Sir, I’m afraid you have to come with me.” The cop reached in the window to subdue the man. “Don’t do that!” the man yelled fearfully. “I’m scared you will find the gun in my glove compartment!” The cop quickly pulled his hand out. “Wait here,” he said sternly. The cop went back to his car and called for backup. Soon cops, cars, and helicopters were flooding the area. The man was immediately cuffed and taken towards a car. However, before he got in, a cop walked up to him and said, while gesturing to the cop who pulled him over, “Sir, this officer informed us that you had committed a robbery, had stolen loot in the trunk of your car, and had a loaded gun in your glove compartment. However, we found none of these things in your car.” The man replies, “Yeah, and I bet that liar said I was speeding too!”
Clearly the man was aware of how fast he was going and was clever enough to scramble the whole ticketing procedure. But those poor policemen had no idea they were being taken for a ride by that clever speeder before it was too late. And boy, were they taken for a ride! Multiple cops and vehicles and helicopters for a simple speeding violation…just think of the time and resources wasted on that traffic stop alone! The man deserves to be arrested!
Say what you will about the integrity of that speeding man, he was a man who was fully aware of his situation, more aware of his situation than anyone else. This week we set out on our 4-week journey through the Advent season as we prepare for the birth and rebirth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As with all preparations, it is important to first be reminded to be watchful and aware. And who better to remind us than the prophets of old. Habakkuk, though a minor prophet of all the prophets of scripture, gave us powerful words of reminder. He says, “I will stand at my watch-post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he has to say to me, and he will answer concerning my complaint.” In many ways, Jesus is the answer to so many of our complaints. All the injustices of this world, all the pain and sorrow, all the despair of this world can be answered and justified in and through Christ. We simply have to be mindful and watchful and aware. Christ is very much amidst us in this world. It’s our responsibility to be mindful and aware of his presence and work in this world. And I think we have to be aware of him with the same type of awareness as the speeder in that opening joke. We have to be so aware as to be able to control the situation of this world. With awareness comes not only responsibility but also control. Just look at how the speeding man controlled his situation. He had the policemen stumbling around in confusion, trying to arrest him for a crime he didn’t commit. He was very much in control of his situation because he was aware of what he did or did not do. We can have control of our own situations if only we are fully aware. “Fully aware of what?” Fully aware of Jesus and what he’s done for us and continues to do for the world! We hear Habakkuk say, “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them.” So it is with the world. The spirit within this world is not right. But that’s okay because the spirit of Christ IS right and he is also within this world. The trick is to tap into his spirit, into THE Spirit, and in order to do that we simply have to be mindful and watchful and aware.
The world is full of prideful, sinful people. The world is full of people stumbling around in confusion, trying to wrongfully convict other people. Friends, we don’t have to live like those people. We can live aware…fully aware! Jesus is not only coming but he’s already among us. We celebrate his coming to us and to those who don’t know him yet. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “we must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” (4:14) We know our Lord and Savior or perhaps more accurately we have faith in our Lord and Savior. We have faith that he can and will rid the world of its trickery and craftiness and deceitful scheming. There is no trickery and craftiness and deceitful scheming in him. There is only goodness and kindness and love. There is only truth and righteousness. In him there is an awareness, a super awareness, of this world and all that’s in it. Simply tap into his awareness! As Habakkuk said, “his glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. The brightness was like the sun, rays came forth from his hand, where his power lay hidden.”
As we prepare in this season, let us be mindful and aware. Paul advises in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “but test everything; hold fast to what is good.” (5:21) With mindfulness and awareness comes not only control but also discernment. We have to hold fast to what is good. We have to test everything and everyone in this world. If it is good, then it is of Christ. If it is loving, then it is of Christ. John writes in his first letter, “we love because he first loved us.” (4:19) This Advent season reminds us of his love and helps us to be more aware. Let us give thanks for his love. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.