Peace from Uncertainty — Peace of Advent

Scripture Focus: Revelation 12:4

Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.

Reflection: Peace from Uncertainty — Peace of Advent

By Erin Newton

Dragons have been part of ancient stories but are rarely mentioned during Advent. Revelation 12 tells of the expected birth of a Savior and the threat of the dragon. This is an echo of the ancient stories familiar to the Old Testament readers.

Ancient Near Eastern culture had stories of gods battling a dragon where the fate of the god was always uncertain. The dragon was powerful, and the strength of the god wavered. It is against this mythic background that we read about God in Job taming Leviathan as a pet. There is no struggle, no uncertainty.

The dragon in Revelation waits to devour the child. The same menacing threat is made by Herod. “…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2.13).

Despite the suspense created by the threat to the Savior’s life from a draconian ruler like Herod, we have been taught throughout the Old Testament not to fear these moments of uncertainty. This is no Canaanite tale of a weak god against the sea-serpent. This is Emmanuel. The God who puts the dragon on the leash is still in control of the world despite his human flesh.

There are so many questions in the story of Jesus’ birth. How will God enable Mary to carry a child as a virgin? That’s impossible. Where will they stay during the hours of labor and childbirth? There’s no option. How can this child save the world if they cannot escape Herod’s edict? The way seems shut.

Through all these uncertainties, answers came. A science-defying miracle of virgin conception. A sufficient, though humble, manger for birth. A spoken word and guidance to safety in a foreign land. How God chose to answer the questions surrounding Jesus’ birth are unexpected and inconceivable.

I am no stranger to anxiety and live with the constant battle of questioning how God will work through each threatening uncertainty. The peace of Advent is peace from uncertainty. The questions will always come but the story reminds us that nothing has ever been outside of his control. The baby is still our Savior. The dragon is under control even when circumstances tempt us to despair.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Hear my cry, O God, and listen to my prayer.
I call upon you from the ends of the earth with heaviness in my heart; set me upon the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
I will dwell in your house forever; I will take refuge under the cover of your wings.
For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have granted me the heritage of those who fear your Name. — Psalm 61.1-5

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Prayers of Joy :: Joy of Advent

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Scripture Focus: Revelation 11.15
“The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.”

Reflection: Prayers of Joy :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

As we conclude the third week of Advent and move to the fourth and final Sunday of this season of anticipation, we prepare our hearts with the joyful prayers of Revelation which follow the seventh trumpet. The joy we experience now through the Holy Spirit has its culmination here. The joy of Advent is true joy and has been held in hearts across the centuries.

Prayers of Joy
We thank you, Lord, for the true joy, ours in Advent.

Advent’s joy exists despite and within all circumstances. 
It is joy in plenty and pleasure, but also in pain and want. 

It is the joy of Zechariah and Elizabeth
 Who suffered years of hopelessness before a spark of joy came to them
It is the joy in Zechariah’s prophecy
 Seeing an end to earthly suffering
It is the joy Mary sang of
 The lowly lifted and the proud humiliated
It is the joy the shepherds could see
 A child born to Mary and to them and to us
 A child born to fulfill God’s promise to Eve.  

This is the great joy of the good news shepherds were sent to seek.
It is the joy John the Baptist knew
 His ministry faded and suffered, yet Christ’s grew
It is the joy of Jesus
 Healing and feeding masses who did not understand
 Masses who followed with wrong motives
It is the joy of Christ on the cross
 Despising the shame
 Eyes set on the joy before him.
It is the joy of the resurrection
 First witnessed by Mary Magdalene
 The first to tell the gospel to others

This joyful good news, this impossible gospel, passed on to us today is the only source of true and lasting joy that will last into eternity.

We join the prayer of heavenly elders, who fall in worship, saying:

“The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.”

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Enter our hearts now.
Enter our world through our hands and speech.
And finally, at the day of our Father’s choosing, enter our skies
And rest your feet on Earth, with your restoring justice.

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
    and have begun to reign.”

Come reign in us, Lord, so that you can reign through us.


*Handel’s Messiah, Full Symphony Performance (Recording of Live Broadcast), (2:32) Sydney Philharmonic Symphony and Choirs

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Now his mother and his brothers arrived, and standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, “Look, your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.” He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” — Mark 3.31-35

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 24 (Listen -5:07)
Revelation 11 (Listen -3:24)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 25 (Listen -5:12) Revelation 12 (Listen -2:58)
2 Chronicles 26 (Listen -4:00) Revelation 13 (Listen -3:20)

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