Advent meditations: week 1 – hope

Each week of Advent, I will be posting meditations based on that week’s theme of Advent readings. I would love for you to join in as well! Let us together celebrate Christ who brings hope, peace, joy, and love.

First of all – hope. We began with these beautiful verses in Isaiah 40:1-5. A few phrases that stood out to me:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to [her] and cry to her that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned …” [English Standard Version]

What does it mean for her warfare to end? Christ is coming: He is bringing peace and reconciliation — and that will flow from a redeemed relationship with God. (Though different than they imagined – not an end to political warfare.) Lord, remind me that my warfare has ended. I have nothing to prove or to win or to defend … You are my peace and my identity.

And then to notice what hope feels like, we read Psalm 42.

“But each day the Lord pour his unfailing love upon me,

and through each night I sing his songs,

praying to God who gives me life.” [New Living Translation]

Hope means thirsting, panting for God – the living God. In the midst of feeling downcast, I hope in God (despite the turmoil of my emotions). Hope is to praise God as my salvation; it is to remember HIS steadfast love. It includes crying for relief from the enemy’s oppression — not wanting to believe the enemy’s taunts of “where is your God?” Summary: In the midst of feeling downcast, there is hope to be found in God — if I remember to look upon Him!

How does Romans 8:18-27 add to our definition of hope? We see that not only we ourselves, but also all creation is hoping and even groaning for full redemption that Jesus Christ will bring. We wait eagerly; hoping for what we don’t yet see; waiting for it with patience (and the Spirit helps us in waiting, believing, patience, hope). Hope transforms present suffering into future glory. The Spirit intercedes for us while we wait and hope and groan. “Wait/waiting” is used twice; “groaning” is repeated three times; “hope” is repeated six times. And who are the subjects of all of this waiting/hoping/groaning? Creation (repeated 5 times); the Spirit/God (repeated 8 times); and WE are (repeated 12 times). This Advent passage makes it clear that even after Christ’s first incarnation, we are still hoping for his second (and final) coming – for the end of suffering and the revealing of glory.

Isaiah 11:1-11 paints the picture of that for which we hope. When the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, all hurt and destruction is banished. And to know the Lord fully means that we will not destroy others or his creation. Who will bring this hope and life-giving knowledge? “A shoot from Jesse” on whom will rest the Spirit of the Lord: of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. One clothed with righteousness and faithfulness. And the “remnant” [those who have hoped in Him] will be recovered from the ends of the earth [raised to new life].

Hebrews 6:13-20 shows an example of this hope in action.

“And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.”

This is quite different than the way I wait! Lord, help me to have in view your promises and for those to be sweet enough to me that I will patiently wait, even against all odds. That because I’ve fled for refuge to You, the God who promises (and doesn’t lie), that I would have strong encouragement to hold fast to hope. That I, too, will go where our forerunner, Jesus Christ, has gone.

I close this week’s meditations with a thought from Psalm 33: I am to hope in the steadfast love of God — to turn to Him in distress and to trust that God sees and will deliver. And then to have a glad heart as I see Him do this — to say with the Psalmist,

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

Isaiah 35 is tomorrow’s meditation … so I will let you add your meditations for that.

Advent season

Advent historically has been a season that the Church anticipates Christ’s second return, as my husband Seth reminded me in his first Advent sermon this past week. And yet we now during this Christmas season focus more on Christ’s first coming – his incarnation into human form – “God made flesh” — and that is if we remember to celebrate Christ at all!

So you, like me, are probably looking for ways to fully enter into the Advent season. This link to Advent 2008 – Mars Hill Daily Bible Readings is a great list of Advent readings to meditate on in anticipation of Christmas AND of preparation for Christ’s sure and final coming. Enjoy! And I’d love to hear your reflections, too, throughout this season.

home for Christmas

As I write this post, the fire is crackling in the fireplace at my parents’ home in SC, I’ve got my comfortable LLBean img_3111slippers on (thanks, Mom & Dad Nelson!), and I am finally relaxed. Our “Christmas break” is well underway, which began wiimg_31181th a wonderful three days spent with the Nelsons in New Jersey. We went to NYC to see the “Rockettes” at Radio City Music Hall, ate at Seth’s favorite Italian family-style restaurant, Carmine’s, and then had “Christmas” on Friday. Snow came down all day — it truly felt like we were in a winter wonderland. We ate, opened presents, ate, slept, and ate some more … truly a relaxing and celebratory day!

There is really nothing quite like home for Christmas — whether it’s Millington, NJ (for Seth) or Greenville, SC, for me. It was great last night to be greeted by the “Davis family elves” last night at the airport (a.k.a. my brothers and sister-in-law); to attend church at the place that’s nurtured my faith in Christ since I was a child; and to be surrounded by the family I love so much and who lives so far away. There’s just something so comforting about knowing you belong and that you’re known. I loved that when Seth, Bryan, and I walked in just before Sunday evening’s church service, the usher at the back immediately directed us to the pew where the Davis family was sitting. I didn’t have to ask or explain — he just knew us. As much as I love new places and exploration, I equally love the comfort of the familiar. Of the rest that comes from this … like an inward sigh of relief.img_3140

And the complication of our journey to get here last night only makes us appreciate it all the more. Bear with me as a I recount another of my traveling adventures (I’ve had more than my share — in my opinion — but the others will be for another post). We were scheduled to fly out with Northwest Airlines through Memphis, TN, to arrive into Greenville (GSP from this point forward) at 9:30 p.m. However, they oversold our flight from Philly to Memphis, and they asked us if we would volunteer to move to a different flight for travel vouchers. Perhaps we’re mercenaries, but we figured it would be worth it and wouldn’t be that inconvenient. It even promised to be better than the original one since the flight they re-booked us for was a direct flight into GSP arriving around the same time. However, it was with USAirways (and my litany of bad travel has been with them historically). And each time we checked the board over the next few hours, the flight was delayed more and more …. until it was canceled at 7:00 pm. So we stood in line and waited … and waited … and waited … and were able to be rebooked … for a flight going into Charlotte, NC (1.5 hours away from GSP). We were thrilled to be arriving last night. And my family was willing to make the trek in their “sleigh” to pick us up. So a very happy and very tired Seth and Heather were greeted by “elves” around 11:00 pm last night — and finally made our way to home sweet home by 1:00 a.m.! (of course, our luggage wasn’t so fortunate to make the trip with us — but it did follow only a day later and we now have it in our possession — again, not unusual since my bags have not made it with me over the past several flights to GSP I’ve taken over the past few years)

Isn’t Christmas and being home better because of the journey? And isn’t it much better because of the journey that img_31222God made, coming to earth as a baby to be born in a manger, to be called Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer? The journey that God took which would guarantee that one day all of those who believe in Christ would be able to journey Home to the place where we are fully known … that is worth dreaming of, hoping in, and celebrating this Christmas. A home that makes the best earthly homes pale in comparison and which gives hope to those who have had homes which were a far cry from any place lovely or familiar or comfortable. May the One whose birth we celebrate be the One whose Home we long for and anticipate this Christmas!

The most wonderful time of the year … or the most stressful?

christmas-in-sc-21

Christmas stockings hung by a crackling fire. A mug of a hot steamy beverage — like hot cocoa or apple cider. Peaceful Christmas carols playing in the background. The cheerful hum of conversation with beloved friends and family. Twinkling lights from an evergreen tree decorated with ornaments spanning the decades. Children’s choirs singing. Goodwill and cheer.

Or frantic shopping for the relative who always disdains whatever you buy. Addressing card after card after card … to friends you only contact once a year with exchanged annual updates and Christmas pictures. Trying to fit in every party. Wrapping gifts incessantly. A higher level of stress and angst.

Which describes this season for you? And is the first paragraph merely an ideal we all hope for but will never obtain? If you live in paragraph two, how can you move to paragraph one? Is it possible?

I had a conversation with a good friend last week, and she told me that she wasn’t doing all of the stress this year. She was going to emphasize what was important, and she’s intentionally spending time going out with friends rather than wandering aimlessly in the mall for hours looking for gifts for people who don’t need anything. Another friend decided with her husband that they weren’t sending Christmas cards this year — and they both felt instant freedom in this. More time freed up to do what’s actually important. I’ve known people who gave generous year-end gifts to charity instead of spending exorbitant amounts of money on gifts to family. (and who needs it more, really? especially this year!)

Now I’m not saying that buying gifts for family and friends or sending out Christmas cards is essentially stressful or moves away from the meaning of the season. I’ve done both — and actually had fun doing it — but I am asking you how you make it the most wonderful time of the year instead of the most dreaded. Ideas? Thoughts? Tell them — for the good of all of us!