His Loving Presence :: Love of Advent

Luke 24.36
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them…

Reflection: His Loving Presence :: Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Where did Jesus go when he disappeared from Emmaus?

We do not know, other than he traveled to meet them once again. First he was suddenly missing on the road, then suddenly standing among them back in Jerusalem.

He came to them.
He is always the God who comes to us—not just during Advent.

He comes to us in Genesis and in John 1 as the source of life, light, and goodness.
He comes, calling to us in the garden, “where are you?
He comes to us, burning in a bush, experiencing the suffering of those who cry out to him.
He comes to us, outside of Jericho—a mighty commander, neither on our side or our enemies’.
He comes to us in the voices of the prophets, crying in the wilderness, in the palace throne rooms, in the city streets, from the city walls, from the corruption-filled temple courts, from the bottom of cisterns—crying for justice, for the end of oppression and violence against the defenseless.
He comes to us as to Jerusalem, as the arriving king, the teacher of wisdom, and the healer of the blind and lame.
He comes to us as the unwanted king, a stumbling block, and a rejected cornerstone, weighed in the balance with a sinful thumb on the scale—righteousness himself, condemned by the sinfully corrupted.
He comes to us, resurrected. Both corporeal and transcendent. One foot in our eternity and one in our present.
He comes to us as the Holy Spirit, that we may carry out his actions in the physical world in his power.

The gift of his presence is why he came. It is why he left Heaven and eternity to enter time, and skin, and intimate relationships. Jesus chooses messy companionship over perfect solitude. He is the God who risks pain and death to gain our fickle friendship and vacillating love.

Where is God when we don’t see him? He is both among us, leading us, and coming to us. He comes, bringing us the gift of his loving presence.

What are we waiting for? He is among us. His love and power are present in our midst. With the gift of his presence, we need not be troubled. We need not shrink from suffering, service, or humiliating treatment.

We are with him. And wherever we go in the world may be blessed by his love and his peaceful presence.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
He sent redemption to the his people; he commanded his covenant forever; holy and awesome is his Name.  — Psalm 111:9

– 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
Zephaniah 2 (Listen – 2:44)
Luke 24 (Listen – 6:16)

Additional Reading
Read More about Quieted with Love :: Advent’s Love
God’s love for us is passionate and unrelenting—he pursued us even to death on a cross.

Read More about Seeing the Lord :: Readers’ Choice
God’s presence reaches into every part of the world as his Spirit empowers people of faith in each vocation

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A Prayer of Hope :: Hope of Advent

Habakkuk 2.3
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.

Luke 21.28
When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Reflection: A Prayer of Hope :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

During Advent we trim our lamps and supply ourselves with oil that we may be ready when Christ comes.

A guided prayer using today’s readings from Habakkuk and Luke:

Lord, as the world grows darker, the hope we have in Christ, burns brighter.

When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me

“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
It will certainly come
and will not delay.

We wait, O Lord, for your word.
We wait, O Lord, for your presence.
Give us your word, that we may be your herald, running with beautiful feet that bring your good news.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

We are impatient, Lord. Teach us endurance in the waiting.
We are anxious, Lord. Teach us to be calmed by you.
We are fearful, Lord. Teach us to trust you in all circumstances.
Trusting you is equally difficult in suffering and in plenty.
In plenty we do not trust you for we have no needs.
In want we do not trust you for we fear you caused our suffering.

No matter how much or how little we have in this world, one thing is true—it is all dust that is passing away.
May we find rest and peace by trusting our lives to you—by putting our hope in your word.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

What are we waiting for? We wait, Lord, for your word.
We wait, Lord, to hear you speak that light will come forth.

The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.

Let us hear from you in silence.
Let us worship you in hope.

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

– 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
Habakkuk 2 (Listen – 3:20)
Luke 21 (Listen – 4:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
Habakkuk 3 (Listen – 2:59) Luke 22 (Listen – 7:58)
Zephaniah 1 (Listen – 3:09) Luke 23 (Listen – 6:39)

Additional Reading
Read More about Resting in Hopelessness :: Readers’ Choice
We fear contentment because it has become conflated with complacency. How can we rest at peace when there are great things to accomplish, proper beliefs to be held, and greener pastures in which we could find ourselves? And so we press on—unaware, performing, and restless.

Read More about Seeing the Lord :: Readers’ Choice
My eyes were blinded by the temporal, until an
eternal God shook the doorposts of my soul.
He came to me

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Abandoning Sinful Hopes :: Hope of Advent

Luke 20.13, 38
“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’

Reflection: Abandoning Sinful Hopes :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

In Christ’s parable, the advent of the landowner’s son was revealing. It revealed the sinful depths of the tenant farmers’ hearts.

In their hearts, they denied their own identity as tenants and stewards.
They maintained the pretense that they were owners, the sole determiners of their fate.
They denied that they relied on the landowner.
They denied what they owed the landowner.
They eventually, through murder, attempted to deny the existence of the landowner.

They are remarkably like us.

In the context of Luke, this parable is tied directly to Christ’s advent to Jerusalem. It is targeted directly, scandalously, at the religious leaders. The religious leaders understood it, but his disciples seem to miss the point. The twelve, despite this parable, don’t realize that Jesus is not about to enact the landowner’s revenge that they hope for, but the son’s unjust murder.

But the parable can also be applied to us. Are we so different in what we wish for, than the religious leaders and disciples who first heard this parable? Aren’t we in many ways waiting for the things they were waiting for? Revenge? Power? Worldly success?

Christ’s Advent will be revealing in our lives. Too often what we hope for condemns us.

Do we hope for salvation from our lusts, or the submission of others to fulfill our lusts?
Do we hope for deliverance from our desire for power, or that worldly power (and people) would be delivered for our domination?
Do we hope to be freed from our greed, or for others to appease our greed?
Do we hope for the freedom to live out Christ’s directives to us, or for the power to enslave others to our directives?

What are you waiting for? Let go of the sinful things you hope for. Give them up to him. Grasp instead the abundance of God’s grace that is our hope.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence wits, truly, my hope is in him.  — Psalm 62:6

– 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
Habakkuk 1 (Listen – 2:39)
Luke 20 (Listen – 5:07)

Additional Reading
Read More about Fasting According to our Lusts :: Throwback Thursday
May we fast from whatever lust holds our heart most tightly, loosening its grip on us and tightening our grip on Jesus Christ.

Read More about In Denial about Greed and Power
Ezekiel’s purposely shocking parable is intended to connect the established shame of sexual sins to the sins Israel was unashamed of—greed and pursuit of power.

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Hope on a Limb :: Hope of Advent

Luke 19.4, 9
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
…Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…”

Luke 19.37-38 (Psalm 118.26)
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Reflection: Hope on a Limb :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Luke chapter 19 is packed from end-to-end with signs of Christ’s Advent. His gifts during his Advent to the city of Jerusalem highlighted the fact that he was not the king the city wanted.

He gave the gift of his presence, salvation, and peace to Zacchaeus—a traitor, a government thug, and a corporate thief.
He gave a warning parable about an unwanted king, “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”
He gave, in his parable, more resources to the already rich, over the objections of the crowd.
Then he ran the rich and powerful out of the Temple in order to give it back to the outcasts, the foreigners, the blind, and the lame.

Jesus is, for some, the unwanted king of the parable. His Advent will frustrate those who wait for earthly adulation and success.

But Jesus is for others, the yearned for King of Glory. He endlessly supplies those whose hopes rise higher.

What we hope for in Advent is not a political power broker.
What we hope for in Advent is not a market economist.
What we hope for in Advent is not a government regulatory watchdog.
What we hope for in Advent is not a resource of earthly wealth, success, fame, and power.

The king we hope for brings healing.
The king we hope for brings peace.
The king we hope for brings love.

In the season of Advent, we climb out, hopefully, on a limb with Zacchaeus.
We run ahead, inquiring about a colt, like the disciples.
We line the streets, hopefully, straining to see his approach.
We lay down our cloaks, marking his entrance into our lives with our sacrifice and humility.
We linger outside the Temple, waiting for his zeal to drive out the greedy and powerful, making room for us—the broken, the blind, the sick, and the outcast.

The king we hope for brings the glory of Heaven to earth in our hearts and expresses his love through our lives.

We can be assured as we stand on Zacchaeus’s hope-filled Sycamore limb, that the King of Glory we hope for will not pass us by. The colt will carry our King. And in the end, all the broken who enter the courts of His temple, will be healed.

What are you waiting for? Climb up on the limb in hope.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
With my whole heart I seek you, let me not stray from your commandments,— Psalm 119:10

– 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
Nahum 3 (Listen – 3:04)
Luke 19 (Listen – 5:29)

Additional Reading
Read More about Hope Born on the Cross
Hope is personal. Very personal. Whether through worship, adversity, desperation or pain, we collide into the reality that our only hope is Jesus.

Read More about Radical Outreach to Outcasts :: Epiphany
Jesus chose to go out of his way to reach out to despised people—tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, Roman Centurions, lepers, adulterers, foreigners. We must choose to manifest his same radical love and outreach to outcasts.

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The Gift of Hope :: Hope of Advent

Luke 18.8
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Reflection: The Gift of Hope :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

When the church decided to set its celebration of Christ’s birth around the Winter solstice, it was no accident or happenstance. And it certainly wasn’t because anyone believed that day was Christ’s actual birthdate. It was instead based on the teaching tool available in the signs of the heavens—in the darkening of the year.

As the year gets darker and darker, an ancient tension grows and a question rises. Will the light return? At the turning of the year, there is a point at which ancient astronomers could not measure whether the light was receding or had begun to return. At the year’s darkest point, humanity waits until the light returns, like a second Easter.

In the season of Advent, we confidently wait in a dimming world, knowing our hope in the return of the light is assured. The hope of Advent is not a naive or weak hope, but one that perseveres into the darkness.

During Advent we have faith in things not seen. We contemplate the signs of what is hoped for. There is reason for hope and joy in the waiting.

Hope in the Christian context—as a gift of Jesus during Advent—is not like a casual wish for a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year. It is a synonym for faith.

And faith does not disappoint us, for the one who promised to come is soon to arrive.
He is the one whose portents are seen in the sky.
The one whose forerunner cried in the wilderness.
The one who would not break a bent reed.
The one who would not snuff a smoldering wick.
The one whose birth was a scandalous miracle.
The one with healing in his wings.
The one whose face would be set like a flint.
The one who would be kissed.
The one who would be pierced.
The one who, from the darkness of the tomb…
While the disciples waited in the dark…
He burst forth, kicking down the doors of Hell, and bringing back the Light of the World.

“Will the Son of Man find faith when he comes?”

What are you waiting for? Reach out in faith. Reach out for the gift of hope.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation. — Psalm 95:1

– 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
Nahum 2 (Listen – 2:06)
Luke 18 (Listen – 5:27)

Additional Reading
Read More about Face Like Flint :: A Guided Prayer
May we, like Christ and like Thomas, set our face like flint in anticipation of suffering. May we listen, follow, and speak, and, if not for God’s intervention, suffer or die with Christ.

Read More about A Congregation of Hope
When it comes to putting broken lives back together—when it comes, in religious terms, to the saving of souls—the human best tends to be at odds with the holy best.

Support our Work
Each month over 22,000 Park Forum email devotionals are read around the world. Support our readers with a monthly or a one time donation. 

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