Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hope: Far Above Human Understanding

It is so easy to find myself overwhelmed by all the thematic articles, sermons, and songs telling me how to celebrate the Advent season. I want to soak them all in. But there is not time, nor space in my brain for this kind of Advent-dump. And so I am learning to approach Advent with a different kind of “theology of expectation.” In doing this, I can allow my “Advent” radar to drop down a few notches as I welcome the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to the everyday images of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that are found in the Christmas story. This doesn’t mean I don’t do an earnest double-take every time I see the word “Advent” written among titles and headlines, but I am trying not to read and regurgitate every single Adventy thing that comes across my computer screen.

For example: Just this afternoon, in one of my new favorite blogs about singleness and relationships (not your typical stop for Advent inspiration!) the author wrote:

Our human tendency is to focus on everything we don’t have, all that has been lost, and everything we fear.  We tend to focus so much on what God is NOT doing in our lives, that we miss out on seeing all that He IS doing. But deep in the heart of Scripture, God is asking us to shift our perspective. To focus on something greater. To long for something more.”

This modern encouragement towards Hope sounds a lot like the plight of those living in ancient Israel, if you ask me. The people of God were living under oppressive Roman rule, very much aware of what God was not doing in their lives. They were hoping for an immediate fix to their problems-- maybe a mighty warrior, or at least someone who resembled the legendary King David. They were most likely not remembering Micah’s prophecy:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.” 
(Micah 5:2 NIV)

And they were definitely not looking for their Savior to be a homeless, manger-born, soon-to-be-refugee child. Yet God has a way of being and moving far above human understanding.

In his 2013 Advent devotional, Good News of Great Joy, John Piper addresses one such instance in the colossal move God engineered to get Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Day 4):

“If you have ever felt little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding people with lots of power and prestige [and I will add terrorism and war] . . . don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people — the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children.”

Piper ends with this encouragement of Hope

“Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he rules the whole world.” 

. . . echoed in Paul's words to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:9):

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life
—not because of anything we have done 
but because of his own purpose and grace. 
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”


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