Tag Archives: Hope

Celebrating Christmas, the Invasion of History by the Creator God

advent candleToday we are celebrating Christmas, the invasion of human history by the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Over this last month we have celebrated the Advent – the time in which the church celebrated both the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.  It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.  That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a community of Jesus followers. We affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again. This acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.

So, as the church celebrates God’s in-breaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is like Franciscan Father Richard Rohr once said:

“We [believe] that the Incarnation was already the Redemption, because in Jesus’ birth God was already saying that it was good to be human, and God was on our side.”

Candles

About two hundred years ago the church began the tradition of lighting candles each Sunday of the advent.  Each of the candle represent a part of our awaiting for Jesus:

  • Hope
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Love
  • The white, and last candle, is the Christ candle

Hope

Hope-candleHope is a powerful concept. It is a desire for a certain thing to happen…waiting, patience….hoping….trusting in something you can’t see or yet experience.  Hope can keep you going even when things are tough.

There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression.  It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is also a hope that is built upon the historical truth that God is on the side of humanity because of He has already come once and has broken the chains of sin and evil that bind us.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Titus 2:11-14)

Lighting the Hope Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of hope from Psalm 33:
The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him,
On those who hope is in His unfailing love,
To deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

All: We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
Even as we put our hope in You.

peace-candlePeace

Peace is normally defined as the absence of conflict or sound. We, however, looked at how this word is defined differently God’s story. Peace is a state of being, a sense that all is well, of tranquility and contentment in life… There is a sense that we can crawl into God’s lap and have that peace – a wholeness that comes with being with the One who Made Everything.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Lighting the Peace Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of peace from Psalm 4:
Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
The Lord will hear when we call to him

All: Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord
We will lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, O Lord, make us dwell in safety

joy-candleJoy

Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Normally we think that joy only comes when things are right and everything is going smooth. Yet, in reading the Holy Scripture we find that we can have joy not based upon fleeing emotions.

Our joy is based God’s presence and the knowledge that He came down into human history and set loose the chains that bound us. We are free from sin, evil and death!! No longer do we have to live under the yoke of darkness, but can thrive under the light of God!!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Lighting the Joy Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace and joy in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of joy from Psalm 28:
Praise be to the Lord
For He has heard my cry for mercy
The Lord is my strength and my shield

All: My heart trust in Him, and I am helped
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song

love candleLove

Love one of the most powerful things on the planet. It can be both an emotion and a decision. When things get tough and relationships are hard, we don’t stop loving just because we lost an emotional feeling. There is a decision that keeps us going through the pain and rough parts of life.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he did something very unique. He made man and women in his image and breathed life into them. He gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or not to follow Him. It was a risking decision that could mean the destruction of everything God made. But he did it because he loved us!

And even after we turned out backs on Him, He loved us. So much so that He invaded our history to set us free from sin, evil, darkness, pain and death.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  -1 John 4:9-10

Lighting the Love Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope, your peace, your joy and your love in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of love from Psalm 36:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your judgments are like the great deep
You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

All: How precious in your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of Your house
And You give them drink from the river of Your delights.

adventchristcandleThe Christ Candle 

Just like the Father Rohr quote read at the beginning of this post, Christmas is the forerunner for Easter. In Christmas God was saying that it was good to be human and that He was on our side. We are free from the guilt, pain, sin, and evil that bounds us because of the birth of Jesus marks the beginning of the invasion of human history by God Himself!

We live between the times – between the first and second Advent of Jesus. We live with both victory and defeat, pain and healing. Yet throughout it all, we proclaim that Jesus is King!

All hail! Let there by joy!

Hail to the King, hail to the King.
Blessed is He, blessed is He.

The peace of earth to Him;

The joy of heaven to Him.

The homage of a King be His
King of all victory

The welcome of a Lamb be His,
Lamb of all glory;
The Son of glory down from on high
All hail, let there be joy.

Deep in the night
The voice of the waves on the shore
Announced to us: Christ is born!
Son of the King of kings
From the land of salvation,
The mountain glowed to Him,
The plains glowed to Him,
Then shone the sun on the mountains high to Him.
All hail, let there be joy.

God the Lord has opened a Door.
Christ of hope, Door of joy!
Son of Mary, hasten Thou to help me!

In me, Lord Christ, let there be joy.

Hope: An Advent Post

hope 2The word “advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” It is a time in which the church celebrated both the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history.  It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.  That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power.  That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.

So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Historically the Advent season starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. In keeping with this  tradition, we will be posting an Advent post each Sunday from now until Christmas. I pray that you will use this time to push into the story of Jesus and the invasion of God into human history.

Hope

The focus today is on hope. Hope is a powerful concept which by definition means:

  • Noun: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
  • Verb: want something to happen or be the case.

It is a desire for a certain thing to happen…waiting, patience….hoping….trusting in something you can’t see or yet experience. Hope can keep you going even when things are tough.

Hope for Justice

There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  (Romans 8:22-25)

The Hope of a People

The “it” that we patiently wait for is the blessed hope of a new earth and a new heaven – the day when Jesus will come back and restore everything. On that day, justice will be done, things will be set right and pain, evil, sin, death will be destroyed.

Oh what a day that will be!

The Messiah

Sadly there are many ‘messiahs’ in the world today – many people and things, many stars and many passions and concepts that can take our eyes off of the things of God. We are pulled so many directions.

This is why we celebrate the Advent season. We MUST remember that God step into human history. This is what Christmas is about: God becoming man to redeem us from our own sins and the chains of the evil one.

No other religion claims this. True, the Greeks said that their gods came down to earth. Only they came to indulge their own desires. Our God came as a sacrificial lamb to be crucified on a cross so that we might be set free and live.

And since He came once, we know that He will come again! We have been sealed with the Spirit of God, a promise that He will return!

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Titus 2:11-14)

Advent Prayer

God of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones, 

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.

Cynicism, Hope and Songs of the Millennials

sporadic cynicismTwo months ago Phil Strout gave a talk at the Pathway Vineyard Church in Maine about the spirit of cynicism that is so powerful in our culture today. It is really strong among the Millennial  Generation as we (and yes, I’m in that group – abet on the leading edge) have been betrayed by so many of our heroes and leaders – parents, teachers, political leaders, business leaders, pastors, priests, cultural icons, coaches, etc. This betrayal and lack of trust has led to a culture of cynicism where we are skeptical of the motivations of everyone around us… watch out for number one as no one else will…

For years I have felt that the song that best summed up my generation was  John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” (and yes, I know that John is more Gen-X…but I think the song nailed us Y folks).  Some of the lyrics of the song reads (abridged with underlines added):

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It’s not that we don’t care,
We just know that the fight ain’t fair
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Yet in the midst of all the pain, sorrow, heartache and doubt there is one voice calling us forward with hope. That is the voice of Jesus the King of Kings! As the author of Hebrews said long ago:

Continue reading Cynicism, Hope and Songs of the Millennials