Advent!

Today begins my favorite season of the year – the days leading up to Christmas. I love everything about Christmas – the hustle and bustle, the lights, the songs, the parties, the time spent with people we love, and most especially – the worship. This time of year is so fraught with great themes. Light in the darkness. Hope in troubling times. Incarnation. Sacrifice. Life. Death. Eternity.

For some who share my profession this time is a time of weariness. The joy of Christmas is stolen by the grind of work. I understand this, and I certainly have experienced moments of weariness and frustration and despair during this season. But I fight against allowing myself to feel that way about Christmas in general. For me, it is extremely important to find moments of celebration and moments of worship even in the midst of this busy season.

One of the ways that I do that is through my blog. So for the second year in a row, I will be writing a daily Advent Calendar here. I will read the Scriptures, and invite you to read them with me. I’ll post pictures each day that will help reflect the reading and the idea that I am writing about.

Today it begins with hope. Long before Jesus was born, there were prophets who spoke for God. Often they delivered messages of doom to a people who had wandered astray. One of my peers likes to call them the grumpy old men of the Old Testament. But in the midst of all their doom and gloom, hope was also present. And the hope was the Messiah who was to come. Jeremiah wrote these words:

“For the time is coming,”
says the Lord,
“when I will raise up a righteous descendant
from King David’s line.
He will be a King who rules with wisdom.

Jeremiah 23:5 NLT

 

For centuries the people waited. They read these words in worship and dreamed about what the Messiah, the righteous descendent from David’s line, would be like. I believe they didn’t have the slightest clue about what God had in mind. But still, they turned to these words for hope. Because they knew that God’s promises would be fulfilled, that the Messiah would come, eventually.

Our season of waiting is so much shorter than theirs. We have less than a month to enter into patient waiting for the Messiah to come. And yet, as we enter this season,I give thanks for those ancient writers, who bled hope on to scrolls so that God’s people would not grow faint of heart.

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Plans…

Some people are good at living life in the moment. They don’t feel a need to plan the details and they love to do things in the spur of the moment.

I am not one of those people. I like to plan all the details. I like to have thought through the possible outcomes. I like to have back ups to my back ups.

But one thing that life has taught me is that though I may plan diligently, some things will not go according to plan. That’s the way it was in a meeting I had this evening. It did not go according to the plan I had made.

But you know what? I believe that it was one of the most significant and powerful meetings I’ve had with this group since we started meeting together. It may have not been my plan, but I have no doubt at all that it was God’s plan. He knew the conversation we would have tonight, and He knows what fruit it will bear.

And I am grateful for the reminder of this verse:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…

Jeremiah 29:11

God is so good.

In danger of loving them…

I had lunch with a colleague today. He and I went through a very difficult phase in our (separate) ministries in previous churches, during the same period of time. We are both marked by the difficulties we faced and the wounds we incurred.

What is amazing is that we are both in much happier phases of ministry now. God is healing our wounds and showing us what we learned through those difficult times. As we talked, my colleague, who is notably stoic and unemotional, said to me “I’m in danger of loving these people.” Now for your average Joe, that might not sound like a grand declaration. But for this particular colleague of mine, it is pretty close to gushing about the congregation he now serves.

I remember keeping this promise of God in my mind during the long months of that difficult phase:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

I would tell myself this over and over again. Sometimes I would look in the mirror and say “Rebekah, you know you serve a God who loves you more than you deserve. He has promised you a better day. It is coming. You have to get through this time to get to that time.”

Today as I sat outside with my friend enjoying some good food and good conversation, I realized that the better day is HERE and NOW. Despite whatever bumps in the road come (and trust me, they come all the time), I love the people that make up the congregation where I serve. And there is nothing like love to make a situation good.