Hearing the Music

in Advent

Waiting and Watching

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It is a quick turnaround this year from clearing the Thanksgiving plates to hanging the Advent calendars. As we think about Advent and all that goes with it, it is good to remind ourselves of where we are in The Story. I like this description from my friends at the Daily Prayer Project:

Advent is the first season of the Christian year. It is the season that waits and watches for the second coming of the Lord Jesus, the Son who will descend from heaven (1 Thess 1:10). As another year arrives and we begin to tell The Story of Jesus and the church over again we start at the end. The word Advent comes from the Latin Adventist which means a “coming” or “visitation”. During the season, the church longs and waits for the end of The Story while living in the dramatic and painful tension of the present, the “already and not yet”. This waiting frames our experience in this preparatory, somber, penitential, and joyful season before the great and luminous celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany. Over these four weeks of Advent we slowly move from darkness to light. This season is also one in which we read and remember Israel's time of waiting before the first coming of the Messiah, when Habakkuk cried out “O Lord how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2) and Zephaniah proclaimed “the great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast,” (Zeph 1:14).

We, as God's people, know where the story is going - “all things new” (Rev. 21:5) - and so we acutely know how unfinished it really is. Therefore, we look and love into a world with holy impatience, wanting our hearts to mirror the King’s and longing for the earth to mirror his Kingdom. “Come Lord Jesus.” This is the heart of Advent.   

As we wait and watch we will be looking through the lens of Glory. "Glory to God in the highest" is what the angels proclaimed as they announced the incarnation to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). We will start here this first Sunday in Advent as we journey together toward the light of His Glory!

 

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

Giving Thanks

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I am sure that you are thinking about Thanksgiving this week: family, friends, food, time off from school ... the Lions. As I think of things that I am thankful for, tops on the list are the truths contained in these last verses of Romans 8.

If God is for us, who can be against us? … in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

As we walk the path that God has laid for us, paths often strewn with disappointment, hurt, hardship, temptation, etc … my prayer for each of us this Thanksgiving is that we would find an anchor beyond our circumstances in these precious promises of our Lord. As Paul puts it in his marvelous prayer for the Ephesians, that we “would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19).” 

Join us next Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, as we gather as a community to give thanks to God for “the good” that he has been woking in our lives this year!

 

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Weak at Prayer

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According to the Scriptures, prayer makes the short list of difficult things to do for the Christian. Paul says in Rom 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Here Paul puts prayer in the category of weakness. While we know we should probably pray more often, my guess is that most of us don’t ordinarily think of prayer as something that is intrinsically hard. Often when it comes to prayer we put the blame on ourselves, I can’t focus, or I can’t find the right words. Surely these things are true, but they are not at the heart of what Paul says our problem is. 

What Paul makes clear is the reason prayer is so hard is that we don’t even know what to pray for! And this is so true. I look at my kids and I want to pray “good” things into their lives. But I don’t know what “good” is. Maybe in God’s economy they need to experience hardship. I pray for my single friends to find spouses, but is that the “good” God has in store? Does anyone know what to pray for our world, our president? I don’t know?

But the good news here is that though we do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Our Counselor takes the heart of what we desire for our kids, our friends, our world and translates our hearts to the heart of our Father. This is yet another plank that Paul is laying in this chapter that proclaims we are “more than conquerors through him who loves us.”

So cheer up! We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit does!

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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