Over the last few years I have come to appreciate Fred Rogers more than I did as a child. The combination of entering into parenthood and exploring Emotionally Healthy Spiritually together with my fellow staff members at Westbrook opened my eyes to what kind of treasure Mister Rogers Neighborhood actually is. He very intentionally and gently walks children through tough situations that they may face in their lives. Everything from being mad to your parents divorcing or even experiencing death.
One of the most wonderful things about Fred Rogers, as well, is the amount peace with which he carries himself. You never get the impression that he is upset or angry with anyone. He always seems to find a way to connect with other people no matter how different they are. From what I’ve heard, this was not only true of him on the show, but in real life as well. It strikes me that this example of peace is precisely the one that we need to reflect on during advent.
My daughter has a lot of things on her Christmas list. She’s almost 5 and it seems like several times a week, she comes up with something new to add to her wish list. She’ll say something like, “Daddy, I want to add this to my Christmas list, I want it sooooo bad. I hope I get it.” I, of course, know exactly what she’s getting from us. Occasionally, she is actually going to get the thing she is wishing for, but many times we have opted not to buy that specific toy. Most of us can remember what this was like. We had things that we were wishing for and hoping for, but never got.
One of the words that is often reflected on during the time of Advent is Hope. It’s a word that we use frequently to describe our wishes. Like my daughter who is hoping for specific presents or when I am hoping that the Colts will be able to win enough games to make the playoffs, we are desiring a favorable outcome that we are unsure of. In terms of Advent, however, the idea of hope is much different when viewed through the lens of scripture.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has begun. We are planning, shopping, cleaning, and wrapping. Christmas is almost here. The same can be said for the church. We just put up the Christmas trees at Westbrook. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but it’s not Christmas yet. We’re in a season of waiting.
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. You’re probably familiar with the term because of Advent Calendars that mark off the days of December leading up to Christmas. Advent is, in fact, an official season in the church calendar that begins 4 Sunday before Christmas and ends with Christmas Eve. It’s a time set aside to wait on the coming of Jesus and prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas. We remember how Israel waited for the Messiah and recognize that we are waiting for Jesus to come and restore all things.
It’s a time of waiting and expectation, and let’s be honest, most of us are bad at waiting.Continue reading →
My heart is heavy and my spirit is weary. There’s so much happening in the world right now. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, but it doesn’t feel wonderful. The countdown to Christmas is on, but it also feels like in many ways that the world itself is falling apart.
First, the violence in America (and even around the world) feels like it is escalating. Maybe it’s just more media coverage, but still it’s bad. The more shootings and attacks happen in our country and around the world the more my heart sinks. To make matters worse, every time shootings happen it’s followed by a very predictable set of responses. I can’t help but think our division over these issues only makes matters worse and postpones any kind of an attempt at making things better.
Come Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free From our fears and sins release us Let us find our rest in Thee Israel’s strength and consolation Hope of all the earth Thou art Dear desire of every nation Joy of every longing heart Born Thy people to deliver Born a child and yet a King Born to reign in us forever Now Thy gracious kingdom bring By Thine own eternal spirit Rule in all our hearts alone By Thine all sufficient merit Raise us to Thy glorious throne 1
It’s probably a bit strange that I would say I am waiting on redemption because I have already been redeemed. When Jesus came, he saved us. His life, death, burial, and resurrection have released us from the power of sin and death. I have been forgiven. James Bryan Smith writes about this in his book The Good and Beautiful God. He says that as Christians we are in Christ. This means that, “Christians are not merely sinners but a new species: persons indwelt by Jesus, possessing the same eternal life that he has. The New Testament is unambiguous on this issue. Several Bible passages affirm this.” 2
Smith goes on, however, to talk about how while sin no longer reigns over us, it still remains. This is the reality that we live in now. Sin has no power over us anymore, but it still exists in this world. This is why I am waiting for redemption. At the heart of all that is broken in this world is the power and presence of sin. We live in a world broken an marred by sin. Sin causes violence, hatred, division, and suffering. When Jesus returns, this will all change. The world will be restored, people will be reconciled, and we will be redeemed. In the words of Andrew Peterson, “The world was good, the world is fallen, the world will be redeemed.” 3
As Christmas quickly approaches, we celebrate the one who came to save us and who will come to make all things new in the end. Together we wait for our savior to return. While we wait let us be about the work of reconciling, restoring, and proclaiming the redemption that he has given us.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.4
1. From Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
2. James Bryan Smith. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 154.
3. “All Things New,” Andrew Peterson, Resurrection Letters Volume 2 (Centricity Music, 2010).
4. From the Book of Common Prayer: http://www.bcponline.org/Collects/seasonsc.html#advent
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.1
The world is broken, and in my last post I wrote about the broken relationship between people. When we look at scripture, however, we also see that the earth itself is damaged. In Genesis 3, the ground was cursed and began to produce thorns and thistles. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that all of creation is waiting for redemption and to be restored at the return of Christ.
In the beginning, God made all things good. All of creation was good. When we sinned, all of creation fell under the curse of sin and death. When Jesus came into the world not only did he bring hope to humanity, but to also to creation itself. Paul calls Jesus the second Adam. He is the firstborn of the new creation, his return will not only bring about the restoration of humanity, but all of Creation. Revelation 21 and 22 gives a picture of a world that has been made new. Jesus says in chapter 21 that he is making all things new, and chapter 22 tells us that there will be no more curse.
The world is a beautiful and wonderful place. I haven’t travel outside of North America, but I’ve been enough places to know that this world still is beautiful. I’ve seen the beauty of the ocean in California, Maine, and Florida. I’ve seen the beauty of the mountains in Colorado and the beauty of the plains in the midwest. This world that God created is amazing, and I am waiting on the restoration of all things. If our world is this beautiful under the curse, I cannot even imagine how beautiful it will be when Jesus makes all things new again.
In the meantime, we need to be a people of restoration. Restoration began with the first coming of Jesus. He loosened the grip of the curse on this world. When we choose to follow Jesus we become new creations. We live to help bring about the reconciliation and restoration that Jesus’ second coming will complete. Jesus is already king, he is at work reconciling, and, as he says in Revelation, he is making all things new.
O King of nations, your reign spreads through all the lands,
you defend the cause of the poor and plead for the wretched of the earth.
Fashion us into an obedient people, that we may spread the good news
of your reign of perfect peace and justice, until all creation will finally rejoice in your perfect will,
until all bend the knee to the King of kings and Lord of lords,
in whose name we pray, even Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior. Amen. 2
1 From Joy to the World
2 The Worship Sourcebook (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2004) 463.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.1
The world is a profoundly broken place. In recent months this fact has become evident that there is a need for racial reconciliation in our country. It doesn’t matter what side of the story that you are on, if you are listening you can hear the cries of injustice that this country does not always protect the lives of minorities.
Over the past year, I have read and listened books and watched movies and documentaries that haven enlightened me and broken my heart over the racial injustices of country. I like most thought I lived in a country where racism is primarily a thing of the past and those who are racist fall into a very small minority. What I have come to realize is I live in a country that favors me because of the color of my skin and I have done little to speak the truth of the Gospel into the broken society in which we live. Continue reading →
This week begins a four week season in the life of the church known as Advent. Advent comes to us from the Latin and simply means coming. The season of Advent is a time when we await of the coming of Christ. Since this is the season leading up to Christmas, we are commemorating the time of waiting for Jesus’ first coming which we celebrate at Christmas. In the Lectionary readings for this time of year the Old Testament readings tell of the coming Messiah.
That’s not the only coming of Christ that we await during advent, however. We are waiting for the second coming of Christ as well. The New Testament readings in the Lectionary all speak of the future return of Christ. Continue reading →