Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent Reflections - November 30


“Therefore the Lord himself
will give you a sign:
The virgin will conceive and
give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14 


Immanuel, God with us. To read these words is to know the quintessential truth of Advent. To believe in a God that is not far off and aloof but literally with us, is to rest in the fact that we are never alone. In fulfillment of the words of Isaiah the Prophet, God conceived his one and only Son in a young virgin woman from a little obscure town in ancient Palestine. Christ would be born into the world through the vessel of a human being, just as each and every one of us. God truly with us. In divine mystery; completely God and yet completely man. Why is it then that we sometimes feel so alone during the holidays?

Let’s face it. The Christmas holidays are not always an easy time. It’s common for feelings of loneliness and depression to increase during this time of year, causing many of us to feel anything but “joyful and triumphant”. When family gatherings, parties and festivities increase, unfortunately sometimes so do painful emotions. Even when surrounded by the people we love the most, the stressful pace of the holidays can make any of us feel isolated and alone.  
It is in these times that we must reach for and cling to the most central message of Advent: Through the birth of Christ, God lives and dwells with us today. The sign was given over 2000 years ago, we have seen it come to pass, and we rejoice in the reality of knowing that it is true. Immanuel!  God with us! 

God, may our hope lie in the truth that we are never alone. Let us rest in the knowledge that you are with us. You have been. You are. You will forever be.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent Reflections - November 29


But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
those origins are from of old, 
from ancient times.

                                                                     Micah 5:2


It's hard to have patience in a fast food culture. There are not many aspects of life for which we welcome waiting. I suppose that's one of the negative side effects to instantaneous gratification. And perhaps that's why we seem to have so little hope in the world today....because one of the most essential aspects of having hope is to also have patience. Patience involves waiting and waiting takes time. We wait. We hope. We wait longer. We lose patience. We wait even longer. We lose hope.  

We hope for a lot of things in the course of life's journey. We hope for our families to be healthy. We hope for our children to grow up and find fulfillment and joy. We hope for that new job and wait for a response. We hope for political and social change in an unstable world. We hope for financial security. We hope for the tumor to disappear and wait for a miracle. We hope for peace and wait for an end to war. We hope. We wait. We hope for the things that we desire most. Hope is a passion that runs deep within all of us, manifests itself in joy and carries us forward in times of trial. 

But despite the origins of hope, things don’t always happen according to when we would like them to. Sometimes the things that we hope for take more time than we're comfortable with. We hope. We wait. And we wait even longer. Sometimes the passage of time means that our hope dwindles. And sometimes it seems that hope is completely lost.  

The people of Israel had hope. They hoped for a savior that God had long ago promised them through the prophets. For hundreds of years the Israelite people held on to the hope of a coming ruler that would emerge from the small and obscure town of Bethlehem. Generation after generation read the words of Micah 5:2 among their families and communities and anticipated its fulfillment. A long time would pass as they waited and God seemed to remain silent. Hope must have dwindled as each year passed. Hope. Time. Waiting. Patience. Silence. Hope.

As you spend this quiet time with God, allow him to let your hope be renewed. Whatever you hope for in life, no matter how long you’ve waited, let it begin anew today. Let your patience be refreshed and your discouragements diminish. Let the the truth of Advent be a powerful proof for you that God keeps His promises and we indeed have reason for hope.  


God, in you we live, in you we have faith, and in you we hope. Renew our hope this day and enable us to rest in the hope that was fulfilled through Your Son, Jesus Christ coming into the world.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Reflections - November 27


“The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,
the one whom all nations will honor.”

 Genesis 49:10 


Journey. Life is full of journeys. Some require great distance and endurance, while others are quite short in duration; ending before we've realized that they've begun. Some journeys are meant to be taken alone; proceeding in isolation. And some are meant to be shared with others; in community and in the company of others. 

Today we begin a journey together. A journey based on beginnings, but also a journey enveloped in hope fulfilled. As we read these words from Genesis, we see that from the very beginning of time, God was breathing the seeds of hope into the world. This truth came to fruition in the story of Christmas and encourages us even today, thousands of years later. As we light the first candle of Advent, we are reminded that for followers of Jesus Christ, hope stands as one of the true essentials of faith.

Let's face it. We live in a time when hope is not always easy to cling to. Our world is unstable and the future is uncertain. Whether it's the threat of war, political instability, racial injustice, terrorism, disease, financial crisis, natural disasters or rumors of the world coming to an end, we seem to be consumed with cultural influences that inspire anything but hope. When troubles and discouragements seem to multiply each day, it becomes easy to lose our way. Hope can seem to be pointless and unrealistic. Some may say that hope is just an idealistic fantasy in the world in which we live.  
But the season of Advent is about Hope; hope in a God that joined humanity, lived among us in the discouragements of life and meets us even in the most minuscule details of our days. It’s the same hope that the people of Israel had over 2000 years ago. A hope in a savior that “all nations will honor”, and was fulfilled in Christ coming into the world. It’s the same hope that he will one day come again.

 So as we begin this journey of Advent together, let us focus our minds on this hope filled truth: God came into the world to live among us. And despite the chaos and turmoil that surround us, he chooses to remain. 
Emmanuel, God with us!  


God, as we begin this journey of Advent together, let our hearts be renewed with hope; the same hope that your children had over 2000 years ago, and the same hope that we have that you will one day come again. In the silence of this time, calm our hearts and minds. Help us to hold onto hope during this Christmas Season.