Unexpected Victory — Joy of Advent

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 14.11
11 Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.” 

Reflection: Unexpected Victory — Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

The joy of unexpected victory is ours in Advent.

Asa, son of David, faces a Goliath of an army and cries out in faith, “There is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty…”

The armies Asa faced vastly outnumbered him and were better equipped, with hundreds of chariots on hand. We often see this scenario in scripture. Over and over, the people of God are at a power deficit, at a technological deficit, and often at a deficit of courage. When they cry out to God, he is sufficient. When they seek human sufficiency, they fail. 

We see this in Asa’s life. In today’s reading, Asa relies on God. In just a couple pages, he will turn to political means for defense. When Asa is confronted, he will throw God’s prophet in prison. (2 Chronicles 16.7-10)

Like Asa, our reliance on God can be fickle. Our faith can fluctuate. We need to be regularly reacquainted with and recalibrated by the joy of unexpected victory.

For this reason Advent, and other seasons of the church, are needed. Looking deeply and regularly into the unexpected victory of Jesus at every stage, we recalibrate our expectations.

Rather than come in power, Jesus comes in weakness. Rather than gather soldiers or scholars, he gathers fishermen and fools. Rather than strengthen our arms, Jesus lays his arms down. Rather than pierce his enemies, for enemies, he is pierced.

God entered our world that was and is deficient in leadership, deficient in financial opportunity, deficient in peace, deficient in safety. He bore our sorrows and sufferings as his own, not just in the type of death he died but in the type of life he lived. Jesus endured deficiency to supply us with sufficiency.

The world expects us to surrender to what surrounds us. These Goliath-sized armies of sins, cravings, systems, and ideologies will defeat our human strength. Yet, there is no one like Jesus to help the powerless against the mighty. Jesus provides us with unexpected victory. 

Advent is the unassuming mustard seed from which sprouts the unexpected joy of gospel victory. There is no one whose sufficient victory is more surprising than the eucatastrophe of the cross. Christ’s upside-down victory through birth, life, death, and resurrection shocks us into joy. 

The rhythm of Advent’s repetition reminds us of the sufficiency of God for all our needs and the joy of the unexpected.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it. — Psalm 118.24

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 14-15 (Listen – 5:49)
Revelation 4 (Listen – 2:09)

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Read more about Love that Points to the Cross :: Love of Advent
Advent’s love anticipates the manger, but it creates an unmistakable vector pointing to the cross.

Revelation of Love :: Love of Advent

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Scripture Focus: Revelation 4.1
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here…”

Reflection: Revelation of Love :: Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Revelation turns attention to Christ’s second Advent for which the season of Advent is designed to prepare us. In Revelation, we see through John’s eyes into Heaven and into a future that is both made already and in the making. 

Too often, I remember being terrified by ministers and laypeople teaching or preaching Revelation from the viewpoint of fear. These well-meaning souls leaned into the horrors of being left behind and doubled down on the troubling imagery of the tribulation, hoping, I think, to scare us spiritually straight. The fear of God, properly taught and understood is biblical and is part of learning about God. But fear-based teaching is doomed to fail. Fear, as a dominant motivation leads only to bad places. Decisions dominated by fear lead to selfish evil. Churches dominated by fear sanctify hatred. Governments dominated by fear commit atrocities. 

Ultimately, fear is not what Revelation is about. It is about love. Jesus starts his Revelation of the future to John by saying, “Come up here,” and those three words are a summary of the message of the book. The story of Revelation is a promise that none of God’s children will be left behind. All God’s children will come home. (”All God’s children” except those who refuse to. As C.S. Lewis said and we have often quoted, “the doors of Hell are locked on the inside.”)

No matter the evil forces, evil governments, spiritual powers, or societal pressures that grasp at us or stand in our way, we who answer Christ’s call will go home to Heaven. Revelation is the story of all of the obstacles to our homecoming being systematically unlocked, opened up, or destroyed—including the ones we built ourselves. Christ’s apocalyptic second Advent is about releasing God’s love and about releasing us to be received by God’s love.

Through Revelation, we can imagine three Advents. The first is that of the babe in the manger. It is quiet, humble, marked with beauty, and harried by danger. The second is that of the all-conquering king. It is loud, triumphant, marked with power, and restoration of justice. The third is not Christ’s advent but ours. It is our advent to the Kingdom of God as his lost children returned. It is celebratory and joyous and marked with tears, embraces, and laughter.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Of the Baptizer, scripture says: “A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to wonder whether John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptize you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ And he proclaimed the good news to the people with many other exhortations too.” — Luke 3.15-18

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 14-15 (Listen -5:49)
Revelation 4 (Listen -2:09)

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 16 (Listen -2:51) Revelation 5 (Listen -2:39)
2 Chronicles 17 (Listen -2:48) Revelation 6 (Listen -3:12)

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