Peace in the Waiting — Peace of Advent

Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 1.3-43
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

Revelation 10.6b-7
6b “There will be no more delay! 7 But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”

Reflection: Peace in the Waiting — Peace of Advent
By John Tillman

There are so many waiting moments in scripture. We see waiting on God as a consistent theme. In nearly every story about any key figure of faith, there are times of waiting. 

Nehemiah’s generation waited for rescue. As the exile began to come to an end, however, the reports from those returning were not good. Trouble, disgrace, and danger were the norm. After all the waiting in exile, and returning home, all was still not well. Peace was elusive.

John wrote Revelation waiting in exile on the isle of Patmos. The “son of thunder” (Mark 3.17; Luke 9.51-56) had become the disciple of love, the “elder” who cared for God’s children (2 John 1.1-2; 3 John 1.1, 4), and sought peace for God’s church. (Revelation 1.4-6)

There are so many waiting moments in our lives. Usually, what we are waiting for is something we need or want right now. When waiting, we feel stuck. We feel sidelined. We feel behind everyone else. We feel abandoned. In these waiting moments, peace seems impossible.

Advent is an exercise in waiting. It is laid out in the calendar of the church like a lesson to be taught. We mark the weeks and the days. Perhaps we light candles or eat treats from a calendar to mark the march toward Christmas day. As we practice waiting expectantly for a day on the calendar, we learn how to wait for things that are not tied to a date.

Like the returning Jews, we live in quasi-exile. Free but under oppression. Saved but still suffering. Like John, we stand between physical and spiritual realities. We simultaneously languish on an isle of exile and walk with Jesus the living One. We see the Kingdom of God yet suffer the kingdoms of human rulers. Trouble, disgrace, and danger may be the norm. 

Nehemiah shows us the efficacy of prayer and fasting as we wait and how to act when God’s hand moves. John says to the church that he is our “companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus” (Revelation 1.9) and he testifies that there is coming a day when there will be no more delay.

A day is coming when waiting will be no more. Faith will be sight. Peace will be present. The mystery of God will be accomplished. That day, though not yet, is certain. That peace, though beyond understanding, can be ours, even in the waiting.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. — Psalm 31.24

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 1 (Listen 2:06)  
Revelation 10 (Listen 1:59)

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Eating the Book :: Joy of Advent

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Scripture Focus: Revelation 10.8-11

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’”I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”

Reflection: Eating the Book :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

One of the simplest practices that can make Advent a time of transformative joy is regular Bible reading. But there is more to do with God’s Word than simply reading it. 

Jesus presents himself to us as both Word of God and as the Bread of Life. This connects to the prayer he taught his disciples to pray, seeking “daily bread.” The Bible is not just another book to simply read— it is the required daily diet for spiritual growth. Without it, we atrophy and grow weak. 

In Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson discusses spiritual reading, called by the ancient church, lectio divina. Peterson draws his title and thesis from the command in Revelation’s tenth chapter:

“The most striking biblical metaphor for reading was St. John eating a book…Jeremiah and Ezekiel before him had also eaten books— a good diet, it would seem, for anyone who cares about reading words rightly.”

After recounting the passage, Peterson summarizes:

“He eats the book—not just reads it—he got it into his nerve endings, his reflexes, his imagination. The book he ate was Holy Scripture. Assimilated into his worship and prayer, his imagining and writing, the book he ate was metabolized into the book he wrote, the first great poem in the Christian tradition and the concluding book of the Bible, the Revelation.”

Eating the Bible may be uncomfortable. It means digesting parts we’d rather not swallow. John eats, though he knows it will cause intestinal discomfort. Peterson notes that Oxford don, Austin Farrer, referred to spiritual reading as a “forbidding discipline.” He then lists many ways it is forbidding to us:

“Forbidding because it requires that we read with our entire life, not just employing the synapses in our brain…Forbidding because it requires all of us, our muscles and ligaments, our eyes and ears, our obedience and adoration, our imaginations and our prayers.” 

May we read the scriptures in such a way that, “they become interior to our lives, the rhythms and images becoming practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love.”

Bible reading, as Peterson describes it,  “is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul— eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.”

May our time in Advent teach us the joy of savoring the reading of God’s Word through the new year.

May we, as a community and in our churches “eat this book.”

*Quotations from Eat This Book, by Eugene H. Peterson

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the prophet of Isaiah: “Look, I am going to send my messenger in front of you to prepare your way before you. A voice of one that cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. John the Baptist was in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. — Mark 1.1-4

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 22-23 (Listen -6:51)
Revelation 10 (Listen -1:59)

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In Advent and throughout our lives, we walk by scripture and prayer. The scriptures tune our ears to recognize Christ’s voice. Prayer teaches how to listen for it

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