By Garrett Vickrey
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Child development experts say the best way to raise “successful” and “well-adjusted” children is to teach delayed gratification. Of course, this flies in the face of everything else we experience on a daily basis where no gratification is ever delayed. Just try teaching a three year old that if she cleans her room then she can have chocolate.
Still, what we are trying to do when we teach delayed gratification is to instill the virtue of hope. We practice hope through self-discipline that teaches us the value of this essential to abundant life. The reason we all need to learn delayed gratification is so that we can flex our “hope” muscles in times of difficulty. At times we need to hold out and hang on through uncertainty. We need hope to be able to trust that things will get better.
This is essentially the idea behind this season, isn’t it? We teach children to wait for Christmas. They see the presents under the tree. They know there is something there for them. But, they have to wait. And in that waiting there is hoping. And the hope grows stronger in the waiting.
There are no better verses to read on this day ― the first Sunday of Advent― than words from Isaiah 40. This is the Sunday we light the candle of hope. Richard Rohr describes hope as, “The patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”
The mistake we make this time of year is in thinking that Christmas is just for children; or that we must return to some childlike faith. What the world needs is not more immature faith. The world needs your faith grown up.
This is the task of Advent: to wait in patience and trust in order to flex our hope muscles. So that we might prepare ourselves to receive the Christ who comes to us. In the wilderness prepare a way. In your life, clear a path. Find emptiness so there is a place to be filled by the one who comes at Christmas. Don’t rush to resolution or closure. Quick fixes and easy answers are spiritual blindness. Hold out for hope. The hope that the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. May you know that glory this year as we all work on that “delayed gratification” that stretches our hope and awaits the resolution of which we catch the slightest hint when we sing, “Joy to the World.”
By David Elliott
As we approach this Christmas time, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the busyness of the season. We have the onslaught of marketing that starts earlier and earlier each year with all of the stores trying to convince us that we need this or that – helping us to realize we “need” so many things that we never knew we needed. There are parties, dinners, concerts, family, and a host of other good things to take up our time.
I know that I have to make a conscious effort to keep focused on what is really important – to remember the true meaning of this Advent season.
I hope each family gets to experience their own Christmas traditions that create memories for many years to come. Whether you are a new family just starting your journey or you have more Advents ahead of you than you can count, this is a good time to remember what is important to your family. Whether it is the decorations, a candle lighting service, a Christmas concert, gifts or any of a myriad of other traditions, we all need to remember the coming of Christ.
God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son who put aside His Godly powers to be fully human, even though he was still fully God. He came to be the perfect sacrifice to completely pay the price of sin for us so that we are now blameless before God. The story of Christmas touches all of us. Whether it is the shepherds, the angels, the wise men (or Kings), or being so poor that Jesus was born in a barn and had a feeding trough for a bed, the Christmas story comes alive for young and old alike.
May this Advent season be filled with hope, joy and wonder. Together, Let us give thanks that the true God cared enough for us to provide a way to Him through Jesus.
By Garrett Vickrey
That’s not a typo. I mean fourwords. Four words to prepare us to move forward into the new age to which Christ beckons us.
Prepare, Return, Rejoice, Awake! Four words.
But, not the traditional four words. The weeks leading up to Christmas are traditionally marked by Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Four nouns that describe the gifts God wants to bring to our lives. But, we must make space for these gifts by preparing a place for them.
In order to make space for the almighty God who comes to us in the form of the all-too-dependent infant there is work for us to do. So we need four verbs to prepare for the four nouns. Prepare, Return, Rejoice, Awake! to make space for Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. In a season of hustle and bustle, a season of to-do lists and “to-get” lists, these four verbs remind us of what we need to do to get ready (not just for Christmas obligations) but for Christmas. The light of the world is coming to us. God in flesh is on his way.
Advent is a season of preparation. It is a time for us to make space in our lives for God to come and do something unbelievable. In order to be ‘ready’ there is work to be done. What if this year you prepared for Christ’s coming as much as you prepare for your relatives or that party you are helping to throw?
That takes intentionality. It takes effort to Prepare for the Hope we have in Christ, to Return to the life of Peace God is calling us to; it takes resolve to Rejoice in the Joy of the season and keep Awake to the Love of God that comes to us in the child in the manger.
Four words for us as we move forward to Bethlehem.