Advent: A Season Of Hope

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I’m celebrating Advent this year which I haven’t done in three years, and I’m so excited! It’s been three years too long. I admit, it feels a little strange and lonely to read aloud in the corner of my room but I believe it’s right to feel this way. Celebration and reflection are always better when shared and although I have a remote group of Believers I’m observing Advent with, it’s being done so in a private, individualistic way. I read my friend Matthias’ advent thoughts yesterday and loved the way I was able to connect with him and worship and it prompted me to share my advent reflections as well.

hope

The first week of advent is a week set aside to HOPE in Christ’s coming. Just as Israel hoped and waited in total silence for over four hundred years for the birth of Christ, so we hope and wait for His promised second coming. Just as Abraham hoped for a son, just as Moses hoped in deliverance for Israel, just as Joshua hoped in a promised land, just as Ruth hoped in the goodness of Boaz, just as Mary hoped in the message of the angel, just as Simeon hoped that he would see the Christ child with his own eyes, so we hope with great expectation that Christ will come.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. – Isaiah 11:1-9

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. – Micah 5:2

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:13-20

It’s hard to hope sometimes. I can imagine there were many a seasons of doubt that the Messiah would ever come. I’ve noticed lately that it’s hard for me to hope when my life is ‘fine’. it’s interesting how desperately I hope when my life and circumstances are uncertain, how it drives my faith to flame and returns purified and longing in holiness for Christ to return. My prayer is that through this celebration of Advent, slowly but surely, my circumstances would affect very little my level of faith, hope, and anticipation in what Christ will do. I love the Puritan prayers and read them often. In the posture of waiting and hope in the coming of Christ I compiled two Puritan prayers of resurrection and second coming to pray this week:

LORD, You left your heavenly habitation to be born of men and suffered and died for my sake, and rose and ascended to Your Father and ours.  O my soul, the departure of the Holy One was not a token of separation, but a pledge of return.  O Jesus, Your Word, Your promises, Your sacraments show your death to your people and will do so until You come again. 

O blessed day of hope fulfilled and gladness—now for the dear Son’s sake has no terrors for me.  Your death has redeemed me; your Spirit fills me; your love quickens, moves and animates me, and by your Word I am governed. 

O my soul, Trust in the Lord who can never betray that confidence he calls for.  Lord, I have trusted you, and waited for you and I have not waited in vain.  “I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh will I see God: Whom I will see for myself, and my eyes will behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”  You will come to raise up my body from the dust and re-unite it to my soul by a wonderful work of infinite power and love.  O my soul, the hour comes!  I triumph, O Jesus, in all your  precious promises as I will one day do in all their performances.  After judgment comes peace and rest, life and service, employment and everlasting enjoyment, which is the heritage of the redeemed.  O my God, keep me in this faith, and ever looking for Christ’s return.

Adorable Redeemer, You who were lifted up upon a cross have ascended to highest heaven. You, who as Man of sorrows was crowned with thrones are now Lord of life wreathed with glory.  Once, no shame more deep than thin, no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.  Now, no exaltation more high, no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.  You Lord, and Victor, Conqueror—You lead captivity captive and your enemies behind You.  What more could be done than you have done!  Your death is my life, your resurrection my peace, your ascension my hope, your prayers and intercessions my sole comfort in life and in death.

This week let’s remember the silence Israel endured as it waited and hoped for the Messiah and look at areas in our own faith that we maybe have grown weary of holding out hope. Do we long for His return? Do we hope in His word? Do we trust His plan and timing? O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant! I love this song and as I’ve sung it this past week, I’ve worshipped to that specific line for the first time. I love the thought of His people gathering together mindfully joyful and triumphant because of what Christ has and will accomplished in and through us. Sometimes I can barely sing out at Church because I feel I’m wearing God’s patience thin and because I’m aware of my sin in the sort of prideful way that tends to push me further from Him when that reality could not be further from the truth. My eyes brim at that line. As I wait for and as I hope in Christ, may I draw near to the throne in joy and in triumph. I want to make that line a reality in my life this Christmas.

O come, let us adore Him!

If you celebrate Advent, is there anything extra special you do during this time? What does hoping in Christ look like to you? If you’re willing, I would love to hear what God is teaching you about hope this Christmas.

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