Advent Devotionals: Monday, December 7

WELCOME TO HOPE - the second Advent landmark on our pilgrimage to Bethlehem.

“The theological virtue of hope is 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.”
(Richard Rohr, “Preparing for Christmas”)

Isaiah 11:1-10, 40:1-5, 42:1-4. Luke 2:1-20, 3:4-6, 4:18-21

I’ve been thinking…

If Jesus placed love for God and love for others (Mark 12:30-31) at the centre of God’s kingdom, it causes me to wonder, “just what is God’s kingdom?”   If God himself IS love and Jesus is the perfect embodiment of that love, then what is God’s kingdom inviting us into?

In a word?  HOPE.

Dallas Willard describes hope as “the joyous anticipation of good that is not yet here or is ‘unseen.”

The dictionary says that hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.  While this is very true, in God’s kingdom hope is more than a feeling.  Kingdom hope is a deeply rooted belief in the truth of God’s promises coming to fruition.  The kingdom of God IS the embodiment of hope fulfilled and complete.

Biblical hope believes that one day all things in heaven and on earth will culminate in the glory of God’s redemption and restoration, all coming together under the reign of God.  In that day, every knee shall bow and declare, “Jesus is Lord”.  Victory!

That is the promise of Advent…  the fulfillment of God’s kingdom with the return of Jesus. This suggests to me that we will no longer need hope once God’s kingdom is complete, as we will be living in the fullness of all that God is.  His kingdom will reign over all and we will be experiencing the full intensity and completion of God’s love. And if that is not enough, we will also be living the complete and full version of ourselves and who he created each of one of us to be!  This is beyond comprehension and kind of takes our breath away when trying to imagine what it will be like.  The completion of hope.

We read in Luke 4:18-21 that Jesus announced in the synagogue, that the prophecy in Isaiah 61 had been fulfilled right before their very eyes, meaning that he himself was the Messiah who was bringing in the kingdom of God.  This was an astonishing statement to those who were in attendance. Picture it - the Messiah standing right in front of you!

The birth of Jesus ushered in the long awaited fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah and the establishment of the kingdom of God.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus made all sorts of statements about the kingdom - “The kingdom is near.” “The kingdom is here.”

Well which is it? Is it near or here?

It’s both.  

For now,  we are living in this “in between time” - that period of time between the first coming of Jesus and the time when he will return. We are living in this unresolved hope, trusting and believing that one day all will be right in the world.  

In this “in between time”, we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is heaven” and we experience “kingdom breakthroughs” when we see healing, when we see wars come to an end, when we see relationships restored, and when people surrender their lives to Jesus.  These are all a foretaste of what is to come.

These breakthroughs remind us of our hope and belief that the kingdom of God is indeed near and sometimes it is actually here.  And no matter what, God is always with us.  

O Come Emmanuel.

So let’s talk 2020.  Let’s face it, it is grim. But we know this is not the first time in history that humanity has faced global disaster.  Mankind has been groaning pretty much from the very beginning.  Every century brings with it some kind of challenge or disaster.  And this is not the first pandemic the world has seen.  

BUT… this time it’s different.  This time it’s OUR pandemic. WE are the ones experiencing this particular catastrophe. This is deeply personal!

The questions are endless. But the biggest question is how is God going to solve this one?

One of the gifts Advent gives us is it provides us the space to wrestle through our questions, doubts and fears. This season of waiting has already been preceded by another very long period of waiting.  Ever since COVID-19 hit, we have been waiting and wondering.  Sometimes we have felt paralyzed in our waiting, especially in lockdown or quarantine. I want to throw out a challenge or invitation to you (you choose which one it is). During this Advent season of waiting and longing, let’s make a posture shift.  Let’s use this time to actively wait and energetically seek what God has in store for us. We know that God can redeem all things, so what is he up to right now?  Let’s look for where he is at work and see how we can get involved.  In the midst of our longing and sometimes disappointment and discouragement, let’s chase after hope.

I wonder… Could it be that the longing we are feeling in the midst of doubt and despair, just might be hope in disguise?

This week’s pilgrimage might involve a shift in terrain as we move toward hope. There maybe some hills to climb and valleys to wade through. In our journey we will be looking for footholds - those secure places to plant our feet so we can make further progress. Think of a climbing wall.  Even though we are strapped in a harness for safety, we still need footholds to propel us toward our goal.
Metaphorically speaking, some of the “footholds” we want to explore that move us from despair to hope are lament, faith, prayer and perseverance as we keep our eyes on what it means to live the way of Jesus… in every circumstance.

REFLECTION:
  1. What is your understanding of the kingdom of God? 
  2.  How does your perspective need to change in light of finding yourself living in the “in between time”?  What attitudes and perceptions need to shift?

PRACTICES:
  1. Morning Prayers of praise and gratitude. (Suggestion:  Write out your prayers)
  2. Evening Prayers - Examen. 
  3. Scripture Reading as assigned above. 

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