Into His Light — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: 
Micah 6.8-12
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. 
And what does the Lord require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God. 
9 Listen! The Lord is calling to the city— 
and to fear your name is wisdom— 
“Heed the rod and the One who appointed it. 
10 Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasures, you wicked house, 
and the short ephah, which is accursed? 
11 Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, 
with a bag of false weights? 
12 Your rich people are violent; 
your inhabitants are liars 
and their tongues speak deceitfully. 

Reflection: Into His Light — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

In Advent we celebrate that Christ came, and is coming, as light into darkness. 

The ancient church set Advent and Christmas in its place in the calendar in order to use the astrological as an illustration of the theological. In the Northern Hemisphere at this time there is a literal darkening of the world as days grow shorter and nights longer. Against this darkening sky we set Christ, the Daystar. (2 Peter 1.19; Matthew 2.2; Malachi 4.2) He is the light and hope of the world. In the setting of Advent’s darkening skies, he shines all the brighter.

Yet, the darkness we speak of at Advent goes beyond metaphor. The worst darkness that Jesus dared to enter was not some hovel or cave in Bethlehem, but the darkened hollows of our hearts in which we hide our sins. The corruption of this world deepens the darkness we live in each day and, in sinfulness, we prefer darkness to light.

This is what Micah speaks of in his lament over what will become of Israel.

What is required of us is justice, but we prefer to take any advantage we can get away with. What is required of us is mercy, but we would rather take violent vengeance for any wrongs. What is required of us is humility, but we prefer to pridefully exalt ourselves at nearly every opportunity. 
What is required of us is to walk with our God, but we prefer the company of mockers, bullies, and strong men whom we would rather rely on than God.

When the lights come on we will be exposed with our bag of false weights, which speaks of the unfair advantages we take against others.

When the lights come on, we will be shown to be guilty dragons with ill-gotten treasures. Like poor Eustace, hoarding our gold, yet longing for the slice of a lion’s claws to release us.

In Advent, the Lord is calling to all wicked cities. The Lord is calling to us. He is ready to bring the light. He will cut us free from our greed and pride and sin. May we anticipate his coming and repent, laying down all the sin that he gives us light to see.

If we let him, he will save us from our own darkest dark by bringing us into his light.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle
Today’s Readings
Micah 6 (Listen – 2:28)
Luke 15 (Listen – 4:19)

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In the season of Advent, we confidently wait in a dimming world, knowing our hope in the return of the light is assured.

Unto Us, He Comes — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: Micah 5.2-5
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 
though you are small among the clans of Judah, 
out of you will come for me 
one who will be ruler over Israel, 
whose origins are from of old, 
from ancient times.” 
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned 
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, 
and the rest of his brothers return 
to join the Israelites. 
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock 
in the strength of the Lord, 
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. 
And they will live securely, for then his greatness 
will reach to the ends of the earth. 
5 And he will be our peace 

Reflection: Unto Us, He Comes — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Confronted by Magi seeking one “born king of the Jews,” Herod commands scholars and experts to give him an answer about the location of the birth of the Messiah. The scholar’s respond by referencing today’s passage. Herod passes this information on to the Magi.

We don’t know exactly where the Magi were from. Scripture simply says, “the East.” Symbolically, the Magi represent the entire unbelieving Gentile world but most scholars think they were probably Zorastrian priests of Persia and Media (Modern day Iran). The term “magi” would have applied to Daniel in his service to the kings of Babylon and Persia. This priestly class were advisors and counselors of kings.

If scholars are correct about the Magi’s origin, it may be the gleams of knowledge they had about this “king of the Jews” trickled down to them from the writings or influence of exiled Jews such as Daniel or Esther. 

Regardless of what light they had when they started their journey, God revealed more and more to them until they beheld the light of Christ directly, face to face. 

Advent is a time when all the world is seeking, waiting, for light. The sinking of the world into dark and the return of the light after the darkest point are common to all humanity.

The Bible tells us that God makes himself known to all people through the creation he has made. (Psalm 19.1-6) Paul goes so far as to say this revelation is sufficient to leave them “without excuse” in rejecting God. (Romans 1.19-20) To those who seek the light, more light is given. 

We celebrate Christmas at this season not for historical reasons but for pedagogical reasons. The movements of the heavens tell a Heavenly story in which Christ comes in at our darkest point to turn the world back to the light.

Micah, in telling us where Christ comes from, also tells us who he comes to:
He comes to the small, discounted for their weakness, bringing strength.
He comes to those who have been dominated, lifting their heads and standing with them.
He comes to the abandoned, bringing reconciliation.
He comes to the exiled, pointing the way to a new home.
He comes to the leaderless, bringing guidance.
He comes to the insecure, bringing protection.
He comes to the victims and perpetrators of war and conflict, bringing them peace.

Unto us, he comes.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Today’s Readings
Micah 5 (Listen – 2:21)
Luke 14 (Listen – 4:36)

Read more about Anticipating His Advent
Because we as humans are temporal beings in an ever-decaying world, we have a hard time waiting.

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Prophets We Want, Prophets We Need

Scripture Focus: Micah 2.6, 11
6 “Do not prophesy,” their prophets say. 
“Do not prophesy about these things; 
disgrace will not overtake us.” 

11 If a liar and deceiver comes and says, 
‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ 
that would be just the prophet for this people! 

Luke 11.29-32
29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.

Reflection: Prophets We Want, Prophets We Need
By John Tillman

In his commentary on Micah, James Limburg described the people’s objections to Micah as grounded in “a theology which assured them of the Lord’s perpetual blessing, of his long-suffering and patience, and of his mighty acts on behalf of his people.”

Micah’s opponents had a theological concept that God’s nature and promises trapped him into perpetually improving their circumstances. In other words, God loved them too much for anything bad to happen. This misreading of the scriptures provided them a bulletproof feeling of invulnerability. To them, it was scandalous and inappropriate to proclaim guilt or catastrophic consequences. 

Certainly, the Lord’s nature is long-suffering and patient. God’s first description of himself in the Bible is that he is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Exodus 33.19-23, 34.5-7) But God will also have justice. In this same passage, he declares that he will not leave the guilty unpunished. 

Certainly, the Lord made promises regarding Abraham’s descendants. But as John the Baptist later warned, “out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Luke 3.7-9) Any person or group thinking God’s plans would be thwarted if they experienced suffering, defeat, imprisonment, or even death is foolish and prideful.

Modern Christians, welcome messages of blessing or victory or power, but, like Micah’s objectors, reject convicting messages. We are sometimes guilty of falsely claiming biblical promises (such as the Abrahamic promises or promises regarding our righteousness in Christ) as a cloak of invulnerability against suffering or guilt. Some today are scandalized by “prophets” who speak like Micah and Amos, especially if they speak on similar topics. 

“Don’t say such things!” 
“Don’t talk about justice.” 
“Don’t hold us responsible for prior generations.” (God regularly holds entire nations responsible for the deeds of prior generations. — Amos 1; Joel 3.19; Ezekiel 25, 35)

Pointing out unrighteousness or the need for justice should not be scandalous.

We wrongly interpret God’s promises to us through Christ if we only see them as guarantees of blessings in this life. We are ignoring Christ’s lived example if we do not think it likely that suffering, mistreatment, or even death might be part of God’s plan or purpose for our lives.

If the only prophets we listen to promise “plenty of wine and beer,” and the “signs” we want from God are all blessings for ourselves, we may be in the same boat as Micah’s hearers.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69.6– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Micah 2 (Listen – 2:11)
Luke 11 (Listen – 7:33)

This Weekend’s Readings
Micah 3 (Listen – 1:51) Luke 12 (Listen – 7:42)
Micah 4 (Listen – 2:33) Luke 13 (Listen – 5:02)

Read more about God is Faithful, not Indebted
Rather than an indebted God, we serve a faithful God. He does not treat us as we deserve.

Read more about Jesus with Axe and Fire
John the Baptist describes a Christ who stands ready with both axe and fire.

Anticipating His Advent

From John:
As we move into the season of Advent (the first Sunday of Advent is this weekend) we prepare our hearts with this devotional from our latest guest writer, Dena Dyer. You can connect with Dena and find out more about her writing at her Facebook page. Dena also has a prayer journal available for Christmas, called The Colors of Christmas—a prayer journal.

Reflection: Anticipating His Advent
By Dena Dyer

The people of Israel had not heard from their prophets in over 400 years. In the midst of cruel taxation laws and heavy religious burdens, the long-awaited Messiah became a distant hope, a flicker of promise almost extinguished by doubt and fatigue.

Then a star appeared over a smelly manger in Bethlehem, and rumors began to surface about a child-king who’d been born to a poor man from Nazareth and his young bride. Angels sang to sweaty shepherds, who bowed in worship at a trough housing a promise kept. Some Jews—such as Anna, Simeon, and Elizabeth–worshipped; others stayed mired in confusion.

Thirty long years passed before Jesus began his public ministry. He healed the infirm, emptied graves, and forgave sins. And still, doubts persisted. After a very public trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, thousands of skeptics believed.

Even so, many people still await the Messiah.

Because we as humans are temporal beings in an ever-decaying world, we have a hard time waiting. We have an even more difficult time believing in promises.

My youngest son has prayed like this for years: “God, I hope that Dad has a good day at work. I hope I can go to Morgan’s this weekend. I hope Uncle Marty’s cancer gets better.”

I wondered whether I should correct him when he said “hope,” because I was only familiar with the Webster’s Dictionary definition: “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.”

Then I learned the biblical definition of hope. In the Old Testament, hope is often translated from the Hebrew word yachal meaning “trust.” In the New Testament, the word hope is used for elpis, which can be translated “to expect or anticipate with pleasure.”

Therefore, hope–in the biblical sense–equals trust and faith. Paul wrote in Romans 8:24-25, “In this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

As our world groans from injustice, terrorism, and catastrophe; as we slog through financial and familial stress, job changes, and health crises; as our children face temptations we could have never imagined—let’s not forget that we trust in what we do not see.

Let’s wait for Jesus with patience, encouraging one another to expect and anticipate with pleasure his second Advent, when he will set all things right.

Let’s wait in peace.

Do you find waiting difficult? Why or why not?
Have you ever lost hope in a certain situation?
Has God given you scripture or people to encourage you to expect and anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promises? Spend some time thanking him.

My spirit grows weak at the thought of my children inheriting a world that we haven’t stewarded well…a faith that we haven’t lived out the way we should. Father, you’re our hope and peace. You can comfort us with your presence and your word. Let us not neglect it, or you, when we are afraid, but instead run to you with open minds and hearts. And Jesus? Thank you for your ridiculous love. Give me assurance that you are still at work in this world

*This devotional was originally posted as a part of The High Calling devotional series.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face.— Psalm 105:4

– 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
Micah 5 (Listen – 2:21)
Luke 14 (Listen – 4:36)

This Weekend’s Readings
Micah 6 (Listen – 2:28) Luke 15 (Listen – 4:19)
Micah 7 (Listen – 3:36) Luke 16 (Listen – 4:27)

Additional Reading
Read More from Dena on Under His Covering
The wise men gave three presents to the baby Jesus, but God also gave three presents to Mary. He gave her the Messiah, but he also granted her joy and peace.

Read More from Origen on Prayer from the Belly of the Beast
Souls that have long been barren but have become conscious of their intellects’ sterility and the barrenness of their mind, through persevering prayer have conceived of the Holy Spirit and given birth to thoughts and words of salvation full of contemplated truth.  — Origen

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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. 

Why We Celebrate Advent

Reflection: Why We Celebrate Advent
The Park Forum

As a commercial event, Christmas seems to come too soon each year. In the church calendar—observed by Christians around the world for centuries—Christmas morning marks the beginning of the season, and our hearts now rest in the season of Advent. To put that in the language of modern music, celebrating “Joy to the World” before we cry “O Come O Come Emmanuel” misses the hope of Advent.

“The ancient theologians of the Church, such as Origen and Clement of Alexandria, look upon the Christian life as one continual festival,” observed Ida von Hahn-Hahn in the 19th century. “Because the night of sin has been overcome by redemption, because reconciliation with God has brought peace and true joy to the soul, and because from this joy no one is excluded who does not voluntarily separate himself from God.”

Hahn-Hahn, a German countess who wrote a series of books on church history, highlighted the importance of Advent throughout history in preparing the souls of the faithful for Christmas:

Particular times were set apart as festivals, which, like faithful messengers of religion, returned every year, unceasingly announcing the work of redemption, and by their attractive festivity enkindling man, and preparing his soul for the everlasting feast of heaven.

The fast of the four weeks of Advent, to prepare the sinful world for the merciful coming of the Lord… is not to be fulfilled by a trifling and superficial joy, but by the supernatural rejoicing of a heart entirely resting in God, and a life wholly consecrated to Him. Zeal for sanctification should extend over all the aims and objects of life.

Our goal in this season isn’t to usurp materialism only to restore an idyllic image of Christmas-past. Advent is a season where we seek the renewal of our souls in Christ as we prepare for Christmas-present, and long for Christmas-future—the great second Advent where the broken are restored, the dead are revived, and the hope of the gospel brings forth the restoration of all things. So in this season we joyfully, and longingly, sing together, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

Listen: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, by Kings Kaleidoscope (4:07)

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.— Psalm 86:11

– 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
Micah 4 (Listen – 233)
Luke 13 (Listen – 5:02)

Additional Reading
Read More about CS Lewis on Hope
Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.

Read More about The Object of Hope
The proper and principal object of hope is therefore eternal blessedness.

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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.