Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent 2012: Hope

I cherish Advent. I get to share this love of the season at my church each week as we observe the season together. Since I have a blog, I thought I'd also share it with you. I am late posting the first week's observance, but it's always better late than never, right? Besides, keeping you waiting was perhaps only a means of reinforcing one of the main ideas of the season. :) Enjoy this time of reflection and meditation.

- Advent means coming.
- We set our minds on Jesus, the light of the world who came into the world to change the world forever.
- We let that change begin with us.
- During Advent, we set aside time to think about what Jesus’s coming means. We think about what it must have been like to wait for the first Advent, when Jesus came as a humble baby. We feel the anticipation ourselves as we look forward to the second advent of Christ. We think about how much our world – and we ourselves -- need Jesus to come right here, right now.
- There are many ways and traditions within the church to observe Advent. This year, we are observing the traditional themes of advent: the light of hope, of love, of joy, and of peace. Each candle around the outside of the Advent wreath represents one of these lights. The reason we are able to have any of these, of course, is Jesus, represented by the Christ candle in the center.
- Our theme verse this year comes from Mt. 24:42: “…Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Our Lord is coming; we believe and are looking for Him.
- Let’s start by letting the word wash over us as we begin celebrating the first week of Advent: HOPE.
In service, several people quoted these verses. Read them over several times so their words wash over you.
But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
Micah 7:7 
But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. -
Psalm 39: 7

Often in the Psalms and in the prophets, we read the words of people who see all kinds of darkness in the world around them. They record injustices, troubles of all kinds, their own struggles with sin, the evils of their leaders, the sicknesses of the chosen people of God themselves. I have times like that. Sometimes, I feel like all I see around me is dark. Sometimes, I feel like all I see in ME is dark. I think there’s a lot of truth there – hearts are full of darkness and the world is fallen and broken.
But I love how the writings of the prophets and the psalmists never end there. Because we are not left without hope. Both talk about how the Savior of the world is coming. Writing from a dark place, they talk about the Light that is coming. We can read passages that promise every tear will be wiped away, that the Lord himself will teach us the way of Life, that wars will end, that every sickness will be healed, that justice will be done, that mercy will win, and that all will be made new.
          When Jesus told His disciples about his second Advent, he told them it would be like the coming of a wedding party. 
(From Matthew 25)
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

This image of being ready to wait for the One who is coming stuck with me this year. I want to be one who is ready to wait, however long it takes, to see my Savior’s face when he comes. Watching for the coming of the Bridegroom means we, just like the prophets and the psalmists, have to hold out the light of hope.           
Andrew, our pastor, often talks about how we’re not here to run a sprint; we’re running a marathon, here. If I’m going to make it, I need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I need to see people carrying the light around me, encouraging me on. We have these things. We even have Jesus’s own Spirit burning inside us.
              Even as we are in the middle of whatever dark circumstances are around us, we know He’s coming. Therefore, since we have hope, we don’t sit around asking, “Are you coming?” If we have hope burning within us, we ask, “How long, O Lord, until you come?” We aren’t looking for anyone else to cure the sin of the world. “How long, O Lord, until YOU come?” Our world has only one Hope. So we wait, looking everywhere to find Him. We do not know exactly when to expect Him, so we look for Him everywhere. We know He is coming; we just don’t know how long He will take. 

You can follow this link if you'd like to listen to the song we covered as a backdrop to a time of meditation.

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