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

Recalling the Failures

John 21.17-19
He said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep….Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Reflection: Recalling the Failures
By John Tillman

There are many meanings of the word recall.

Industries recall products that are flawed, defective, or dangerous. Employees and representatives can be recalled from their positions when they have an embarrassing failure.

At this reflective time of year we, individually and collectively, recall both good memories and bad. We tend to focus on the bad.

Christ sees more failure in us than even we know, yet he re-calls us—he calls us to himself again, and again, and again. Christ re-calls the failures.

It is not just Peter who is reinstated in the last chapter of John’s gospel and our last reading of this year. Other disciples who failed famously are there—Thomas who doubted, Nathanael the cynical elitist, the power-hungry sons of Zebedee. These confused and doubtful disciples are going back to the familiar when they are met by a familiar face on the shore.

Once in a parable, Jesus said, “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead,” and he meant it. One thing that rings so true about the gospel accounts is that the disciples are slow to believe and understand what has happened, even after seeing Jesus alive.

The resurrected Jesus is patient with them, staying around, appearing to the disciples over and over. He slowly and lovingly works to overcome their doubts and fears and reissue his call on their lives. And he is lovingly patient with us as well.

Christ’s message of reinstatement is for all of us. He doesn’t see our failures as the world sees them.

The world calls us a bad debt. Jesus redemptively reinvests in us.
The world sees us as the sum of our shortcomings. Jesus adds himself to our equation and calls us to our eternal future.
The world wants to put us back in our place after failure. Jesus comes to us with a second (third, fourth, fifth…) calling.
The world wants us to compare our calling to others. Jesus rejects comparisons and personally invites us to a unique path.

The failures of the past year, or any year, are not our end, but our beginning. Jesus brings hope to our aftermath. Hope amidst our confusion. Jesus speaks calm and welcoming words to the anger prone. He feeds the weary and hungry. He comforts the hurting and troubled. He washes away the doubts of the disbelieving.

Jesus has a following—a following of failures. Join us, won’t you?

*When looking back at your year, do so with insight into your failures from the Holy Spirit, but also with his redemptive grace and love. The Prayer of Examen is a wonderful tool of reflective prayer. We recommend it daily or weekly. But the practice can be adapted to review this year in the light of God’s grace. For more information about the prayer, follow this link. Take your time in an examen prayer, especially when reviewing a long period. Set aside time this evening or tomorrow to spend in this practice.

Prayer: The Greeting
Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! They will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. — Psalm 65:4

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Malachi 4 (Listen – 1:06)
John 21 (Listen – 3:58)

Tomorrow’s Readings (Happy New Year!)
Genesis 1 (Listen – 4:55)
Matthew 1 (Listen – 3:29)

Additional Reading
Read More about Prayer for Busy People
Central to the practice of healthy, gospel-centered prayer is the awareness of God’s presence in and around our lives. The Prayer of Examen, was designed to be prayed even when the necessities of life made other forms of prayer impossible.

Read More about The Beautiful Feet of Lepers
This is the gospel—that terrorists can be healed and saved and the rejects of society can bring the news of salvation and the testimony of victory unimaginable to their city.

How far will you travel in God’s Word this year?
On January 1st we restart our two year Bible reading plan in Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew. Join us on the journey. We read the Old Testament over two years and the New Testament and Psalms each year.

Read with us at a sustainable pace. Subscribe and invite friends to join you using this link.

Where will a journey through the Bible take your faith in the coming year? Jesus calls each of us, saying, “Follow me.”

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