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December 2, 2018

Hope | Advent 2018

Trouble Waiting

I teach United States History, Part One to freshmen and sophomores at my local community college. Teaching today’s Gen Y and Gen Z presents challenges. For some reason, that is the first thing that came to mind when I began to reflect upon writing an Advent devotional.

Tempest by Thomas ColeAdvent is about coming. It is about waiting. It is about expectancy. It is the bated breath that is held before the exhale of joy, relief, and fulfillment. Attentive waiting with hope is the posture of this season. Yet, waiting for things seems to be something that we struggle with. With sound bites as news and the constant stimulation of social media, we are used to instant gratification. This high stimulus and focus on what is pleasurable have eroded attention span and patience.

Forgiveness for Impatience

But less I get preachy and judgy let me hone in on verse seven of Psalm 25, “Do not remember the sins of my youth.” I am led to remember that I was once young, too. And I also did not wait well.

Yet, the psalmist reminds us of the grace of God that precedes us. God’s steadfast love and mercy are of old. God’s character of love existed before my youthful follies, God proved quite capable of handling my short-sightedness, and God, of course, extends the hand of grace today.

We need to be reminded of the meaning of Advent.

Deliverance and Rescue

The hopeful expectancy of God rescuing us from our enemies needs to be remembered. We need to be reminded of the necessity of waiting on God. Like ancient Israel, we too, experience tempests in life; we too, are oppressed and need deliverance. We too need to experience Immanuel, God with us, in the Incarnate Jesus.

What do we need deliverance from?
Who is the enemy?
What is our sin? 

To quote the 1970s cartoonist Walt Kelly:

We have met the enemy and he is us.

The United States may not be an oppressed nation today, in the common understanding of being ruled by an outside foreign power, but we still need rescuing, and as the quote indicates we need rescuing from ourselves.

What I mean by that is that we are living in a highly divisive time. We don’t need to “talk politics” to note that the root of our conflict is fear. It is a fear of the unknown, it is a fear of poverty, it is a fear of lack of control, and it is a fear of difference. When we are controlled by fear, we become reactive. When driven by anger and despair because we are afraid, hope grows dim.

Hope overcomes Fear

We need God Incarnate to rescue us from fear, hopelessness, and hatred. Or rather I should say, we need to take hold of the salvation Jesus has already provided. When Jesus came to save Israel and the world, He did not do it by fighting fire with fire. He didn’t fear the religious leaders that opposed him, and he did not hate Rome. By overcoming their evil with humility and forgiveness he defeated fear and hopelessness. His humility was brave and his forgiveness hopeful.

Since we are in Christ, supernaturally part of his nature by the power of the Holy Spirit, we too can overcome fear and hopelessness. We too can be strong and courageous.

Fulfillment of Psalm 25

On that very first Christmas, people awaited the coming of the Messiah, the one anointed by God to overcome the sins of Rome. It took them a while to realize after that first Advent that God had kept God’s promises to Israel, and to the psalmist, in Jesus. Jesus has made known to us God’s ways, and has taught us God’s path. We have been saved from what is wrong to what is right. God has been merciful and steadfast.

Waiting for the Second Coming

Now that we know what God has required of us, let us continue to wait expectantly and actively for Jesus’ return. This is not a time to be idle, but a time to share what we have been given. Because we have overcome fear, because we have experienced salvation, because we have been given hope, we have something to offer those who seek comfort, rescue, and peace.

While we wait for our Lord to come again, let us work towards earth reflecting heaven. Let us speak to the “Roman ways” of today and say that intimidation, disrespect, and hatred will not be how we engage one another and those different from us.

Instead, we will build communities of integrity and uprightness in worship and honor of the Triune God who has redeemed us.

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Scripture from Revised Common Lectionary for Year C

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16
  • Psalm 25:1-10
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
  • Luke 21:25-36

Download the Advent Devotional

About the Author

Alicia Dixon-Garrard graduated from Northeastern Seminary in 2014 with a Masters in Theology. She currently resides in Johnson City, New York where she is preparing for Interim/Transitional Ministries. Attending retreats and drinking tea are a couple of her favorite things to do!