By Edgar Twedt
1 Peter 1:8
6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The first thing that came to my mind when I read this verse (in bold letters above) was what does this have to do with Advent. Then I tried to turn my doubting mind away from its cynical bent, and take a deeper look. The passage is a message from the Apostle Peter to those who have not actually seen the Lord physically as Peter had. When we look at it in the overall picture of Advent through Resurrection and finally seeing our Lord face to face, it makes remarkable sense. Just as we have not seen our Lord face to face, and just as we do not see him now, still we love him, believe in him and rejoice with what Peter calls an indescribable and glorious joy. And the same is true of the Advent of his Incarnation. None of us was there, none of us saw the event personally, but we believe in him who came and dwelt among us, and we continue to rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy at the oft repeated story of the Advent of his coming. In a very important sense our first meeting of our Lord was one of indescribable and glorious joy, and so every time we celebrate ADVENT it reminds us of the first time we met him. No wonder we are filled with awe and wonder as we move into the season of ADVENT. It isn’t just the holly and the ivy, the trimmed Christmas tree, the stockings all hung by the chimney with care, or the beautifully wrapped presents so neatly displayed around that tree. It’s the indescribable and glorious joy of our relationship to the living Christ.
By Karen Calhoun
Advent is a season of inward preparation. Advent is the work of the soul. Paul gives us the instructions in Philippians 4:4-7. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Inward preparation involves LETTING GO. We see that in Mary’s SURRENDER to God’s messenger Angel Gabriel. When she did not have answers for how it would happen, she trusted God’s answers and said, “I am ready to serve.”
Inward preparation requires SILENCE. Her worry and fret about the mystery disappeared in her prayers as she let God know her concerns. Paul tell us that when we also get silent and talk to Him and praise Him, God’s wholeness comes and settles us down. When we are silent and listening, he replaces worry with praise. (Phrases from The Message)
Inward preparation also ALLOWS HIS BIRTH TO OCCUR AGAIN in our heart and soul. Time and time again. We can be so dulled by superficial distractions that we are incapable of hearing any voice within, let alone listening to it.
Take a “selfie” of yourself. Are you LETTING GO? Do you see yourself bathed in SILENCE? I pray your focus reveals Jesus BEING BORN ANEW in you.
By Ellen Di Giosia
Whenever I read this passage, I immediately start singing: “FOR unto US a child is BO-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-O- o-o-o-o-[this part goes on and on]-o-o-o-ORN!” I love Handel’s Messiah, but every singer knows that this can get really old – so old that the text itself seems to lose its luster. (This was not Handel’s intent, of course, although he should have thought about that before he spent so many measures on a single vowel sound.) The Messianic titles here may feel a little tired, too, after years of rattling them off in Bible drill: “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
Prince of peace – sar shalom. In a world filled with war, this might be the hardest one to hear. I can see the person of Jesus in each of the other titles, but Advent never feels like the advance of peace to me. Instead, I am struck anew every year by the bloodshed that doesn’t let up just because it’s the holiday season. And Jesus’ birth certainly didn’t mean the end of violence; he fled Herod’s murderous rampage while still a baby, and his death would be marked by the cruelest kind of pain.
So when I read Eugene Peterson’s translation of this passage, my eyes lit up:
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
Shalom means “peace,” but it also means “wholeness.” It doesn’t mean the absence of conflict, but the presence of something – Someone – greater who can pull together the conflicting parts of our communities and the conflicting parts of ourselves. As we yearn for peace this Advent, let us remember that the peace we wish to see in the world should begin with cultivating the wholeness in our own souls. Amen.
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.