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.

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Expectation Affects Anticipation :: Hope of Advent

Nahum 1.15
Look, there on the mountains,
the feet of one who brings good news,
who proclaims peace!

Luke 17.20-21
“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed…because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Reflection: Expectation Affects Anticipation :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

The good news that Nahum prophesied was on the other side of exile for his readers, and the kingdom that Christ’s disciples anticipated, was mysteriously already present among them. How do we anticipate the “already and not yet?” How do we wait for what is already with us? Among us? Part of us?

Advent is a time of anticipation. But anticipation with the wrong expectation, can lead to dissatisfaction or cause us to miss what we have been waiting for completely.

Those who anticipated the day of the Lord in the time of the prophets were wrong about what they waited for. Amos, Zephaniah, and other prophets knew that day would be one of darkness, not light.

Those who anticipated the coming of the Messiah were wrong about what they waited for. The Pharisees, the Zealots, and the people all expected a king who would violently defeat the Roman empire. They rejected the humble, donkey-riding healer who would violently disrupt their economic system at the Temple.

Even the Disciples expected the restoration of an earthly kingdom, asking Jesus, “Is now the time?” “Are you going to restore Israel?” Even the people who were closest to Jesus anticipated political salvation, not spiritual.

“Managing expectations” is sometimes cynically viewed as not allowing customers to get their hopes up, so that they won’t be angry when you let them down. But when it comes to our expectations of Advent, we don’t need to manage them by lowering them. We need to raise them above temporal, earthly, material matters. We already know that what we receive will be beyond what we can ask for or imagine.

The gifts we anticipate have already been purchased at great cost, and contain more than we can ever hope for. We will focus this Advent on the gifts of Jesus in the Gospel of John (which doesn’t enter our reading plan until next Monday) and on the question “What are you waiting for?”

Many have asked this question during Advent, a time of waiting and anticipation. We will attempt to not just passively dream of what we would have from God, but to turn the question into a prompt to action in response to God. 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.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.— Psalm 118:23

– 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 1 (Listen – 2:24)
Luke 17 (Listen – 4:22)

Additional Reading
Read More about Restful Meditations :: Advent’s Hope
Focusing our hearts on Christ, the hope of Advent, expands the holiday experience beyond mere merriness. In the gospel our hearts find rest from pain and hope for renewal.

Read More about Anticipating His Advent
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.”

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The Gift of Service :: Advent’s Love

The story of Christ’s birth is the story of giving. Christ humbled himself. He was familiar with financial tension (his family lived at the sustenance level). He knew the pressures of vocation, and of working one job though he was designed for another—the Messiah was a carpenter for well over a decade. He gave himself to obedience, even to the point of death.

The words of Scripture instruct us to live as Christ lived, and draw models for Christian living from those that came before us. One such person to examine is Wenceslas I, the Duke of Bohemia, who later became a king and a saint. Ed Masters, writing for Regina Magazine, chronicles Wenceslas’ reputation:

He was generous to and provided support for the needs of the indigent, the widows and orphans. He bought freedom for slaves and even visited prisoners during the night, giving them alms and listening to their concerns as well as exhorting them to leave their former ways of life behind and to repent of their crimes. He was known to have carried wood on his back in the middle of the night to those that needed it for fuel and assisted at the funerals of the poor.

The saint was memorialized in the 1853 song, “Good King Wenceslas,” which celebrates the power of following the footsteps of a holy man. The fourth verse opens with the king’s page weakening as they press into the night to serve a poor man in the snow:

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”

“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.

Wenceslas did not walk under his own strength; the king was often found at night praying in the church. His gifts of service were expressions of Christ’s ultimate gift—something our service to others can bring to life this holiday season.

Listen: Good King Wenceslas by Downhere (3:03)

Today’s Reading
Nahum 3 (Listen – 3:04)
Luke 19 (Listen – 5:29)

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