Kept in Love :: Love of Advent

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Scripture Focus: Jude 20-21
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Reflection: Kept in Love :: Love of Advent
By John Tillman

In a time of waiting like Advent, we can become discouraged. We long for “the day when our faith will be sight.” We grow tired rather than excited. The darkness can fill up with doubt instead of anticipation, and apathy instead of engagement. What are we waiting for, anyway? Is what we are waiting for worth it? And will it ever come?

We are waiting, in a very literal sense, for love. 

In Advent, we wait for a love more loving than the most rapturous physical touch. It is more caring than the love of the most loving earthly mother or father. It is more self-sacrificing than a soldier dying that others might live. All metaphors of God’s love fall flat in comparison to Christ. We glimpse the love of God in these examples, as Moses glimpsed God passing by while waiting in the cleft of the rock. The best of them are merely the fringes on the garment of the love that comes to us in Christ. Yes. The love we wait for is worth the wait.

God’s love is both coming to us, and already with us. Jude tells us that we keep ourselves in God’s love through faith and prayer.

The word Jude uses implies being guarded, and kept safe, preserved. This “keeping” is something for which Christ himself prayed in John 17. Christ prayed not that we would be taken out of this world, but that we would be “kept” in the world—protected and maintained.

As we wait in the dark, the comforter that Christ prayed for is here with us. When we “mourn in lonely exile here,” the Holy Spirit echoes and harmonizes with our cries. He is our emmanuel. 

The love of God approaches during Advent. Rather than being gripped with doubt, we will soon be embraced by our God. The arm of the Lord is being revealed to us as he embraces us as his children. His arms are not too short to save. They are not too weak to carry our cross and die upon it. 

Reach out through faith and prayer and you will find there is a spiritual embrace waiting to “keep you” in God’s love as we wait for “this same Jesus” to return. Come Lord Jesus!

Prayer: Jude 24-25:
“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

We will resume Divine Hours Prayers tomorrow.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 9 (Listen -5:07), Jude (Listen -4:12)

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Read more about His Loving Presence :: Love of Advent
Where is God when we don’t see him? He is among us, leading us, and coming to us.

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How Are You Waiting? :: Hope of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Share a link to this devotional, or this subscription link, or use the sharing links included in the sidebar to help them join us.

Scripture Focus: 1 John 5.1-3
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.

Reflection: How Are You Waiting? :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Especially during the holidays, we are familiar with the feelings of awaiting the arrival of loved ones. The way we wait often varies. On my mother’s side of the family, my Granny and family waited in a celebratory way.

When we were expected at my granny’s home, in the deep country of northern Mississippi, the sound of our tires on the gravel road would announce our coming perhaps a mile before we got there. At times, we rolled up to the house with our relatives’ dogs baying and running along beside us and cousins riding bikes in our wake of dust. We would barely have the car parked before a joyful command from my Granny’s throat would be shouted out the screen door to us, “Get in this house!” It was both an unmistakable command, shouted in the same voice that might say “don’t touch that stove,” and a celebratory description of what was about to happen. We would rush up to cross her threshold and be embraced tightly and enthusiastically. I can best describe it as “lovingly-aggressive anticipation.”

When I go to my parents’ home today, unless I drop by unannounced, the experience is similar. The drapes are open so they can see when we drive up. The door is unlocked and we just walk in. I am usually met at the door with a hug of greeting, or sometimes a shout from the kitchen, “Come on in!” or “Get in here!” Our arrival is not simply expected, but prepared for and anticipated with longing. We are not simply welcomed, but celebrated. This is how the Church waits in the time of Advent. 

Advent is a time in which we leave the front door unlocked for we know the time of Christ’s coming. It is a time in which, we open the front drapes to see down the driveway, we listen for the engine in the distance, the thunderous roll of tires on gravel roads. 

When we do the joyful work of anticipation and preparation for Christ’s Advent, we may find that it is actually we who are coming home. We are reflecting the anticipation of the Father. And it is actually the voice of Christ who will one day shout with lovingly-aggressive anticipation, “Get in this house!” as we cross the threshold of Heaven.

May we prepare and anticipate the coming of Christ.
May we say to him, “get in this house,” inviting him into our churches, our communities, our homes, and our hearts.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Hosanna, Lord, hosanna!…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. — Psalm 118.25-26

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 6:12-42 (Listen -7:17) 
1 John 5 (Listen -3:00)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 7 (Listen -4:07), 2 John (Listen -1:50)
2 Chronicles 7 (Listen -3:02), 3 John (Listen -1:51)

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Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more from A Prayer of Hope :: Hope of Advent
During Advent we trim our lamps and supply ourselves with oil that we may be ready when Christ comes.

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Who Are You Waiting For? :: Hope of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Share a link to this devotional, or this subscription link, or use the sharing links included in the sidebar to help them join us.

Scripture Focus: 1 John 4.16-17, 20
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus…Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Reflection: Who Are You Waiting For?
By John Tillman

Back in the days when one could go to the gate and meet friends as they came off of the plane, I was a part of a group that played a joke on a friend of ours returning on a flight. We gathered with a simple sign to hold as we awaited our friend and arrived at the gate early enough that we were the first ones waiting.

Then, as now, people coming off of a plane didn’t normally hesitate—they would hustle off to baggage claim or the exits. But on that day as people began to stream off of the plane, they saw our sign. A few simply chuckled and moved on, but some, due to curiosity, seemed to find all manner of reasons to stand around the gate chatting. They were interested to see who was getting off of the plane.

The crowd grew as our friend was one of the last people to exit the plane. As the tension mounted, we almost abandoned our plan. But when our friend finally appeared, we cheered loudly and we proudly held our sign up: “Congratulations! Not Guilty!”

I don’t know if any of those who witnessed our prank realized it was a joke. They may have been curious about whether they would recognize the face getting off the plane from the news. But I do know they were interested in who was coming because of how we were waiting.

Are people interested in the Christ you are waiting for? Maybe that has to do with how you are waiting? A child waiting for a parent to come home and administer a punishment behaves differently than one waiting for a parent to come home and ease a broken heart. A child waiting for a parent to bring home test results behaves differently than one waiting for a parent to bring home a present.

What you do while you wait, tells people who you are waiting for and what you think about them. What do people see when they see us waiting for Christ? What does that make them assume about Christ’s identity?

What, or who, are you waiting for?

May we wait for Christ expectantly, with energetic hope.
May we prepare the way for Christ by doing what we would expect him to do on behalf of others. 
May we prepare the way for Christ by being the kind of servant that Christ lived as when he was among us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 5=6:11 (Listen -9:57) 
1 John 4 (Listen -2:58)

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Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about Abandoning Sinful Hopes :: Hope of Advent
Christ’s Advent will be revealing in our lives. Too often what we hope for condemns us…Let go of the sinful things you hope for. Give them up to him

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Of Waiting and Giving :: Hope of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Share a link to this devotional, or this subscription link, or use the sharing links included in the sidebar to help them join us.

Scripture Focus: 1 John 3.16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Reflection: Of Waiting and Giving :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Advent, which could be a pleasant time of anticipating God’s gift, has become a stressful time of accumulating other gifts. 

Rather than counting the days until the gift of Christ is given, we count the days left to purchase gifts for others. Blessing others with generosity is a good practice all year long, but consumer culture twists gift-giving into a selfish game of reciprocation. We give presents in order to get them as well.

The two practices could not have more different effects on our souls. As we count diminishing shopping days, the weighty dread of worldly expectations is piled upon us like the debt we incur through our spending. As we count diminishing days until the gift of Christ arrives, the heady joy of heavenly expectations lifts our souls, removing the debt we incur through our sin.

So do we boycott giving? By no means.

No matter how twisted our culture becomes, there are always ways to live redemptively in it. Christians have always excelled at reclaiming customs fouled by greed (or any other form of sin or idolatry) and refurbishing them with a gospel flair. 

So as you hear the trumpeting of diminishing shopping days, pushing you toward consumeristic fervor,  think of the trumpets that will announce Christ’s second advent that will bring an end to striving and selfishness.

As you purchase gifts for those dear to you, remember how dear you are to God that he would spend so recklessly to redeem you.

As you push through throngs and mobs of travelers and shoppers, remember the throngs of travelers that filled Bethlehem’s beds, pushing our outcast Savior to sleep in a manger. Think of the crowds that pressed in, hoping to hear his message. Think of the mobs who beat, spit on, and stripped him, nailing him to the cross as he fulfilled the gospel on our behalf.

And as you remember how Christ gave…give, and give, and give. What are you waiting for? 

Give to those around you, to your loved ones, and to those organizations making a difference in the world. Give to those who can’t give back. Give until the only explanation for your generosity is that Christ is giving through you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 3-4 (Listen -5:42) 
1 John 3 (Listen -3:21)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about Hope on a Limb :: Hope of Advent
What we hope for in Advent is not a resource of earthly wealth, success, fame, and power.

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The God of Light, in the Dark :: Hope of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Share a link to this devotional, or this subscription link, or use the sharing links included in the sidebar to help them join us.

Scripture Focus: John 2.8-9
I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.

Reflection: The God of Light, in the Dark
By John Tillman

We may, at times, speak of darkness as an analogy for evil or for sin, and biblical authors do as well. However, actual darkness is not evil in itself. God created light and darkness and rules in each equally. We hide our sins in darkness, but only out of our ignorance. Darkness hides nothing from God. Our sins hidden in the dark, to God, may as well be in a spotlight before the world.

It is God, says the psalmist, who gives songs in the night and through the darkness of the heavens pours forth speech. In this way, the movements of the heavens were chosen by the ancient church as a teaching tool to show us God’s light coming into the world at the time of gathering darkness.

The darkness is not dark to our God. He is moving in the darkness, coming closer to us than we could stand him being. The presence of his glory is too much for us. The knowledge of his holiness is to great for us. The full light of his presence, is blinding to us. So, God draws down the veil of dark at the end of the year. He creeps up to us cautiously and secretly, so that we can be close to him. 

The time of Advent, of waiting in the deepening darkness, may seem to us as if we are huddled around the waning light in fear of evil. But the dark is also used by God to herd us close and near, so that he can intimately, softly, and gently reveal himself to us.

This is the glory of the incarnation— that God draws us in and shows us the fullness of who he is and what he is like in the form of a baby. He was hidden in the darkness of the womb, hidden in the darkness of the night of his birth, hidden in the arms of peasants from the eyes of the powerful. He was revealed to the outcasts, the unworthy, the foreigners, and the humble.

So may he be revealed to us. So, may we wait—humble, outcast, huddled in intimacy, hearing God’s approach in the dark. Come, Lord Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved… — John 3.16-17

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 2 (Listen -3:41) 
1 John 2 (Listen -4:04)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about The Gift of Hope :: Hope of Advent
At the year’s darkest point, humanity waits until the light returns, like a second Easter.

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