Cultivating Hope (Cultivating Hope in the Climate Crisis- Advent 1)

Post Author: The Rev. Elizabeth S. Ivell

This is part of a sermon series on the promise of Advent and the reality of living in the midst of a climate crisis. Read the rest of the series by selecting the Cultivating Hope in the Climate Crisis tag.

Eternal God, gift us the hope we need to keep awake and watch for your amazing works. Help us participate in the upending of the world as we know it so we will know the world of your loving grace. We pray all this and more in your most Holy Name. Amen.

Commentary on Isaiah 64:1-9 & Mark 13:24-37
In August of 2017, the United States experienced what some media outlets called “the Great American Eclipse.” It was a total solar eclipse that spanned fourteen different states, with a partial eclipse being visible from parts of Canada to parts of South America. I was traveling that day and remember pulling off the highway into a shopping mall to catch a glimpse of the event. It was a moment where much of the United States was united with creation, as everyone stopped to go outside and look up. Reflecting on where we are today, six years later, many of us have lost all hope of anything in creation bringing so many people together. 

A black and white photograph of people wearing eclipse glasses and looking up at the sky.

Everyone stopped to go outside and look up!

When we are in a state of hopelessness, we do not see a point to getting involved with the hard work of living in our world. Jarod K. Anderson, the writer of the nature podcast the CryptoNaturalist, once tweeted: “We seldom admit the seductive comfort of hopelessness. It saves us from ambiguity. It has an answer for every question: ‘There’s just no point.’; Hope, on the other hand, is messy. If it might all work out, then we have things to do. We must weather the possibility of happiness.” As one climate related disaster rolls into another, less of the country is coming together to witness and be in awe of our universe. How can we find hope this Advent, especially when Jesus has gone all apocalyptic talking about when heaven and earth will pass away? We are feeling the heat of the earth passing away all too soon already! 

In this passage from Mark, Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple, talking with Peter, James, John, and Andrew. They ask him to tell them more about his previous statement that all the stones of the temple will be thrown down. As Jesus is describing the time of when all will be thrown down, a great apocalyptic unveiling, he mentions eclipses and the stars falling and everything that we know being upended. In the end, his advice to his disciples is simple: “Keep awake.” I read those words as: stay hopeful and engaged. Weather the possibility of happiness. 

In her book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, Katharine Hayhoe also advises us to keep awake, to stay hopeful and engaged by connecting with others about what is going on in our world today. Her case for hope in the midst of a climate in crisis is to share stories. While many of us are alarmed by the statistics coming out from scientists about the ongoing crisis, she recognizes that people are quickly overwhelmed by bald facts. While she advocates ending the use of fossil fuels, she argues that the best thing we can personally do to help ourselves and our planet is to talk about why we care about the world.

We have these stories. Each of us has stories about why we care and the changes we have seen in our lifetimes. We know the stories of the scriptures as well- of the changes of landscape across generations and how it has affected civilizations. Hannah Malcolm, a theologian who writes about climate change, is quoted in Saving Us as saying, “The words of the prophets – living and dead – can help us learn to talk about our apocalyptic fears. They teach us to be honest about the realities of sin, greed, and grief. They call for radical, upside-down changes, not small adjustments to existing systems. And they teach us how to be absurdly hopeful, painting visions of peaceful futures when that seems impossible.”

Our prophet for the day, Isaiah, also speaks to some of the hopelessness of the world, even many millennia ago. But Isaiah also recognizes that there is a point, it might all work out because of the power and might of God. Isaiah writes, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;  we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” God can change our hearts and minds, can show us- does show us- possibilities of happiness and new life. And God can make the impossible happen.

We who await the birth of the Christ child, God incarnate on this planet, know what amazingly impossible things God can do. We know that God’s amazing works happen all around us through nature, through humans, through forces we cannot quantify or categorize. As we wait this Advent, we recognize the need to keep awake to what is happening around us and share our stories of the amazing impossible God is doing in our world.

Hymn Suggestions
All My Hope On God Is Founded, Hymnal 1982 #665
Creator of the Stars of Night, Hymnal 1982 #60/ELCA Worship #245
All Earth is Hopeful/Toda la tierra, ECLA Worship #266

What Comes Next:
Advent 2: Cultivating Peace – Isaiah 40:1-11 & Mark 1:1-8 by Rev. Corey Turnpenny
Advent 3: Cultivating Joy – Luke 1:46b-55 by Rev. Merianna Harrelson
Advent 4: Cultivating Love – Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 by Rev. Talitha Amadea Aho
Christmas Eve/Day: Cultivating Light – Isaiah 9:2-7 & Psalm 97 by Rev. Kara  Wiechmann

The Rev. Elizabeth Ivell is a priest in the Episcopal Church and currently serves in Morristown, NJ. She lives and cycles with her husband Jimmy, and is a servant to her cat Nicodemus. She writes at

Image by: Dave Davidson (Pixabay)
Used with permission
1 reply
  1. Ali Van Kuiken says:

    Thank you for this reflection. I love the idea of telling stories as a response to apocalypse! I’m also put in mind if the little book Love in the Anthropocene. I’m going to take another look at that as I prepare to preach on the first Sunday of Advent.


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