Scandalous Surprise of Hope — The Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 2.5-6
5 “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him? 
1 John 2.7-8
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet 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. 

Reflection: Scandalous Surprise of Hope — The Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Who are we to have such hope as advent promises? That Christ would come to us is baffling, surprising, and to some, scandalous. Yet he did and does and will do so.

Past promises pave a way for faith in the future. God’s gift comes to all as assuredly as it did before. Darkness will pass and true light will shine.

Christ was at one time hidden but was then revealed. He is the peasant child foretold by a star. He is the lowly babe, announced in the heights of heaven. He is the pearl discovered in the field. He is a treasure in a jar of clay. He is the lamp placed on a stand. He is a candle revealed when the bushel is kicked over. He is the light from the holy of holies spilling out when the curtain was torn from top to bottom. 

We see Christ as a living paradox and a mystery, a foolish farce to some and a source of unshakable faith for others. He is the uncontainable God, “tabernacling” in a human-made temple. He is the good which comes from a town no good thing could come from. He is the God who could not be seen, being born with a face to be kissed by his teenage mother. He is the source of life, whose life was snuffed out on a Roman cross and the source of light whose death put out the light of the sun that he called into being.

As we have written before about Jesus:

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.

What is hidden will be revealed and what seems mysterious or foolish in the gospel will prove to be greater than all the wisdom of humankind. God will surprise us. New things, new light, new hope springs up even now for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– 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)

This Weekend’s Readings

2 Chronicles 3-4 (Listen – 5:42), 1 John 3 (Listen – 3:21)
2 Chronicles 5-6.11 (Listen – 9:47), 1 John 4 (Listen – 2:58)

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Read more about The God of Light, in the Dark :: Hope of Advent
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.

This We Proclaim — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 1 John 1.1
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

From John: We look back this Thursday to this post from 2019. We wait in hope, not for a day on a calendar but a date written in the heart of God when all will be set right once again.

Reflection: This We Proclaim — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

What are we waiting for in Advent? A day on the calendar, yes. But there is more.

In Advent we begin with hope. This hope is not a wispy, wishful, thread. Christmas is sure and expected, arriving steadfastly in boxes checked off on a calendar and boxes packed and opened in times of gift-giving. Eventually, the day passes, the season moves on and we begin waiting for the day of Christmas all over again. But the day we wait for on the calendar is merely symbolic and is not the actual day we are truly longing for.

Christmas Day is not the day that Jesus was born. Only badly written holiday cards and holiday movies believe that. The ancient church did not fix the celebration of Advent around the winter solstice because of history, but because of pedagogy. Celebrating the birth of Christ as light coming into the world, just at the time at which our world is at its darkest point was not an accident and it wasn’t cultural appropriation. Ancient Christians looked at their understanding of cosmology and saw the maker of the cosmos behind the movements. They measured the observable scientific data of the movements of the heavens and saw an analogy placed there by the maker of those heavenly movements.

At the time when we are farthest from the light, Light itself steps closer to us.
At the time when the world is the darkest, God appears as light.
At the time when all seems to be sinking, God rises and raises us with him.

John, whose gospel is more of an artistic logical argument rather than a historical logical document, leaves us no room to suspect that the events he recorded were fables or myths or legends. In his letters, John unequivocally affirms the reality of his account of Christ. He, together with the other Apostles and disciples, touched and saw and heard the intangible, invisible, unknowable God in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Advent, we wait literally for a day on the calendar. In waiting for this day, we are learning to wait for the tangible, visible return of Christ. We see now as in a glass, darkly, then we will know face to face. And just as surely as the day on the calendar will return, so will also return, this same Jesus. As we wait, we learn to hope. Come, Lord Jesus!

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 1 (Listen – 2:47)
1 John 1 (Listen – 1:28)

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Read more about Expectation Affects Anticipation
He has shown us what is required. Do good. Shun evil. Give extravagantly. Live sacrificed. This Advent, we ask ourselves, “What are we waiting for?” Get on with it.

Hope in Mercy, Not Wrath — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 29.15
15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.

2 Peter 3.9-10, 13-15
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…

Reflection: Hope in Mercy, Not Wrath — Hope of Advent

By John Tillman

As David neared death, he acknowledged that life seemed to be “a shadow, without hope.”

We are not wrong, like David, to admit that the world is a dark place. The world is undeniably filled with wickedness, injustice, oppression, poverty, and violence. It is a lie to deny this darkness. What is more, we are the reason the earth is filled with darkness.

We are responsible for the shadows of hopelessness upon the world. We are responsible collectively and individually, historically and personally. For this reason, much of what we know and see of this world is destined for destruction and wrath. 

It can be tempting, especially when we are suffering, to put our hope in God’s wrath. David did this from time to time. (Psalm 69.22-28) When we hope in wrath, we wait impatiently. Every second that God’s fiery wrath is delayed, we doubt his love and justice.

It is just for God to destroy evil. It is also just that those who refuse to abandon evil and repent will perish along with it. Yet, it is hypocritical for those of us delivered from destruction only by the mercy of God to desire only destruction for our enemies.

For David and for us, setting our hope on God’s wrath is unfulfilling. In his life and art, David also clung to the hope of resurrection. In Psalm 16, David pointed to life beyond death and a hope that he would be in God’s presence and experience eternal pleasures.

Peter relied on David’s psalm in his Pentecost sermon, explaining that the hope David held was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. Later in Acts, Paul also argued that David’s psalm expressed hope in the resurrection of the messiah to come. (Acts 2.20-32; 13.32-41) In Peter’s second letter, he repeated and reinforced this theme.

The destruction of our enemies is a tempting image. Peter, however, counsels his readers in a different direction. These believers suffered under persecutions that most western Christians have never in history endured. Yet, Peter counseled the church not to despise God’s delay or despair during it.

As we wait during this advent and always, let us rend our hearts hoping for God’s mercy for sinners rather than wringing our hands savoring the thought that evildoers will suffer. 

As we wait, let our hope be in God’s mercy and patience. Every second he delays is salvation for sinners.

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
1 Chronicles 29 (Listen – 5:50)
2 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:21)

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Do we mistakenly think we deserve God’s mercy while others don’t?

Renamed by God — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 28.4-6
4 “Yet the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the tribe of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. 5 Of all my sons—and the Lord has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6 He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.

Reflection: Renamed by God — Hope of Advent

By John Tillman

Naming, in ancient cultures, was greatly important. Names were intended to remind children of who they were and to place them within the story of their family. Their names followed familial patterns and repeated names from the past.

Scripture usually calls Solomon by the name his father David gave him but God gave Solomon another name. God named him Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12.25) God renamed Solomon because God claimed Solomon as his son and promised to be his father. 

Like Solomon, we have a mixed history. Our family patterns may include violence, lust, destruction, suffering, slavery, exile, or many other damaging and hurtful things. Names today are more often chosen simply by sound or for uniqueness with little meaning behind them. Modern legal names don’t tend to reflect our histories but those aren’t our only names, are they? 

We have other names that we have been called or that we call ourselves. Many of these names come from dark places or express our worst feelings and fears. Failure. Foolish. Ugly. Fat. Unworthy. Unloveable. Hopeless. These are haunting names all of us have heard at one time or another.

Our history or pain can “name” us. Naomi let bitterness change her name to “Mara.” Nebuchadnezzar forced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to accept names reflecting Babylonian religion and culture. Rachel attached her own pain to her second son, naming him Ben-Oni or “son of my trouble.”

Those gathered after the birth of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s child did not take Elizabeth’s word that he would be called “John” because it didn’t fit the pattern of their history. When Zechariah confirmed it by writing, his tongue was loosed to prophesy. (Luke 1.59-66)

We don’t have to continue in life with the haunting names that fit our histories. Like Solomon, God has a new name for us. Our new identity is hidden in Christ and given to us as we are adopted by God. (Isaiah 56.5; Revelation 2.17)

New names bring us new hope. Christ’s name is to be called, “Wonderful counselor, the mighty God.” Like the shepherds who sought for him, we must seek him to live in the authority and power of our new name and our adoption as God’s children. Our new names will remind us of whose we are and where our place is within God’s story.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 28 (Listen – 4:45)
2 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:52)

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Christ takes great pleasure in his Beloved and he calls us by a new name.

God In the Dark — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 2 Peter 1.19
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Genesis 1.2-3
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Reflection: God In the Dark — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

The darkness is a place of hope. Why? God seems to be attracted to darkness.

The first picture of God that the writers of scripture give to us is not on a lofty throne, set in shining heavens. On the very first page of scripture, two things are “over” the surface of the deep waters: darkness and the Spirit of God. God hovers over dark, chaotic waters. God enters creation’s darkness and sparks light and life.

God is often found in darkness. 

God shows up in slavery (Genesis 37.28), in deserts (Exodus 3.1-4), in winepresses (Judges 6.1-14), in cisterns (Jeremiah 38.6-13), in caves (1 Kings 19.3-9), in hiding (1 Samuel 24), in terrifying dreams (Daniel 4.4-5), in madness (Daniel 4.34), in the belly of a beast (Jonah 2), in the lions’ den (Daniel 6.19-23), in sickness (Matthew 9.27-33), in demonic attack (Luke 8.1-3), on death beds (Acts 9.40-42), in tombs (John 11.38-44), and even in the depths of hell (Psalm 139.7-12).

In the darkness of Ur, God called Abram out to look up at the stars and number the shining lights to know the number of his children. In the darkness of Saul’s fading kingdom, God promised David a son who would establish an eternal kingdom of light. 

In the darkness of Israel’s suffering under Rome, God set a star in the heavens announcing a son of David who would fulfill both the promise to Abraham and to David. But more than that, Jesus was the fulfillment of promises of light made to every human being from Eve to Mary. The birth of Jesus was God’s ultimate entrance into darkness.

When we find ourselves in dark places of the world or facing darkness within ourselves, we can remember that God enters the dark. No matter how dark our times,  our circumstances, or our mood we can trust that God will send his light.

God still raises our eyes to the heavens to ponder the Abrahamic promise.
God still causes light to dawn on lands in deep darkness.
God still says “let there be light” and causes the Morningstar to rise in our hearts.

Beyond the dark horizon
Out where the people are dying
The son of man will be rising
The glory of the lord will be shining

Shatter the dark horizon
Out where the people are crying
A Morningstar will be rising
Rising to show us the way

Music: “Morningstar” by Whiteheart.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path. — Psalm 119.105

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

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 26-27 (Listen – 7:01)
1 Peter 5 (Listen – 5:39)

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The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

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At the year’s darkest point, humanity waits until the light returns, like a second Easter.