By Leonora Newell
During the Advent season, parents are always trying to balance the attention between the gifts and the desire to instill in their children the true meaning of Christmas, and developing in them a heart of service with a focus on giving instead of getting.
In Jeremiah 29 we find a copy of a letter that was sent to the people that had been carried into exile by Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was a message for everyone. Bloom where God has planted you! Here and now. I imagine that their daily hopes were to be liberated from their captivity, always ready to get up and go. They had no idea when they would be freed, but they sure dreamed about it and listened to false prophets making predictions of an early delivery.
I imagine that the letter from Jeremiah arrived with a shocking message: “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (yes, that meant… them! And yes, it was a message from God!): Build houses… plant gardens… marry… increase in number… “ All of these seemed to refer to pretty usual living. Then the challenge increases: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” How could they do that if they were preparing to leave as soon as possible? Serve the enemy? Be a blessing where God had planted them? In our case, give to others instead of getting gifts at Christmas? Share my precious time in service to others?
God does not stop there. He gives them a timeline (not a short one, 70 years!), with words that still bring us hope today: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.
Let’s actively seek Him out in this season of Advent! He said He will listen, and that He will be found! In the meantime, as we wait in expectation, let us be a blessing.