Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Advent Words ~ Word 2: Longing


Word 2: Longing

The Prophet Isaiah

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
    and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
    and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:1-4

For many centuries God’s people waited for the Messiah, God’s promised One, to rescue and redeem them. God spoke to them through His prophets promising the arrival of the Savior. These promises produced hope, the waiting produced longing. Longing and waiting are the rhythms of the Advent season, but we do not long and wait in vain for we have the hope of God’s promises.

The prophet Isaiah lived during the time when the nation of Israel was divided. The northern kingdom was Israel, and the southern kingdom was Judah. Isaiah and other prophets of his day from the southern kingdom, Jeremiah and Micah, were God’s voice to the people. All three shared promises of the Messiah, but Isaiah’s book contains the most. His words gave the people hope and produced in them a longing for the Messiah to come quickly, to free them from oppression and hard times, for the promised Messiah would bring justice for God’s people.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” Isaiah 42:1-4

Isaiah’s words gave the people glimpses of who the Messiah would be and what he would do.

The Messiah would be born of a virgin – Isaiah 7:14

He will be called Immanuel, God with us – Isaiah 7:14

He would reign on David’s throne – Isaiah 9:7

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – Isaiah 11:1

His peace will be everlasting - Isaiah 9:7

He will uphold justice and righteousness for His kingdom – Isaiah 9:7

He will defend the poor and needy – Isaiah 11:4

He brings justice to the nations – Isaiah 42:1

He will be a light for the Gentiles – Isaiah 49:6

He will bring salvation to the ends of the earth – Isaiah 49:6

He will take up their infirmities, take on their transgressions, and bring them peace and healing – Isaiah 53:3-4

He brings good news to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, gives freedom to captives, release for prisoners, comforts those who mourn, and brings beauty, gladness, and praise – Isaiah 61:1-4

This is the One the prophets promised. These are the things that the prophets said the Messiah would bring. This is what built their faith in God and gave them hope. This is the One they longed for.

We will come across Isaiah’s words again and again as we go through the Advent story. Advent is a time of connecting with the waiting and longing the nation of Israel had in expectation of the Messiah’s arrival, of celebrating God coming to earth as Immanuel, and reminds us of our own waiting and longing “while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) in His promised return.

"The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing. That is our life, to be trained by longing. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when He comes you may see and be utterly satisfied." ~Augustine




Sunday, November 27, 2022

Advent Words ~ Word 1:Promise


Word 1: Promise

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Hope is the first theme of the Advent season. Yet it is also a thread that we find woven throughout the whole of Advent because hope is at the very core of our faith. Advent is a season of looking back and looking forward. The cast of characters that will guide us through this Advent season provide us with examples of people who lived in hope of God’s promises fulfilled. Through the longing and waiting, through times of trials and suffering, and even times of peace, it is hope that provides the lifeline needed for God’s people to endure. What we hope for is certain because we believe in the God of hope (Romans 5:13) whose promises rest on His grace, mercy, love, and faithfulness. As we look back at the prophets and the people of God who lived in hope, depending on the faithfulness of God to provide the promised Messiah, we are encouraged in our own hope to look forward to the promised Savior and King who will return in glory.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

Hope always looks forward but rests on what is behind, on seeing the promises of God fulfilled in our own life and in the lives of others. As we look back on the characters of the Advent season, may our hope be renewed and refreshed to live in this present time confident in the living hope we have in Jesus Christ and certain of the lasting hope we have in Christ’s return when His glory will be complete in our lives.

King David

Our church recently finished a year of going through the book of Deuteronomy. One of the things that continually comes up in this book is the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9

Throughout the book God’s people are continually called to remember what God has brough them through, just as He promised He would do. Our God is a covenant making, covenant keeping God. One of the covenants, or promises, that God made was to David. If you remember the story, David was a simple shepherd who God chose to be king of His people because David was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Despite the many ways David sinned – adultery, murder, etc. – David was faithful in loving and following God, as we see throughout the Psalms where his repentant heart continually cries out for God’s mercy and love. David would be known as a righteous and loving King, and a strong ruler who protected the people.

God’s love for David is seen in the many promises He made to him. They are detailed in 2 Samuel 7:8-16. Verse 16 summarizes God’s covenant with David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” The promise God made to David, that His kingdom would be established forever, was a promise to God’s people for a righteous king to lead them forever. This promis, known as the Davidic Covenant, would become the hope that God’s people held onto for the coming Messiah – the One who saves.

The later prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah would point to God’s salvation through David’s line in the coming of the promised Messiah.

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

“‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ “

Jeremiah 33:14-16


In Jeremiah’s words, we see the promise of God, made to a people in exile that a day is still coming when He will fulfill this promise.  A “righteous Branch” will “sprout from David’s line – from his descendants, and this king, the Messiah, will save His people. This gave a people longing and waiting for deliverance, hope.

And so, centuries later, Matthew's gospel begins with hope fulfilled, "the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David...". We then see how Jesus is descended from David’s line in Matthew 1:1-17. We see the fulfillment of this prophecy repeated throughout the Christmas story found in Luke's gospel:

The angel said to Mary:

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-33

From Zechariah’s Song:

“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us—“ Luke 1:69-71

The angel to the shepherds:

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Jesus Christ came as the fulfillment of the promises God gave to David, the prophets, and the people. He is the promised One who will do what is just and right. He is the LORD our righteousness!  

I think my Advent journals are some of my favorite art journals.

This year I made a simple signature journal using a heavy weight drawing paper.

I kept a page in front to add the words as I complete a page.

Share how you respond to today's word in the Words Facebook Group or on Instagram using #adventwords2022.





Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Advent Words 2022 ~ Coming Soon!


Advent Words 2022 ~ Coming Soon!

Here in Ohio where I live, we have had an incredible Autumn. It has been warm, right up to two weeks ago when we had temperatures in the 70's which quickly turned to temps in the 20's and 30's last week. In addition to mild temps, we have also had incredibly brilliant colors. Every tree seemed to be radiant in color this year, and at times the landscape would glow. Now, as the weather returns closer to what is normal for November we come upon the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., which is quickly followed by the start of the Advent season.

I found this year as I was beginning to think about the Advent Words challenge, that after six years there isn’t really anything new to dig into. The same words, the same Scripture passages, and the same music guide us each year through the Advent season, just as it has been done for centuries. I found that as I approached the Advent season over the past two years that there was great comfort in the familiarity of a story and truths that do not change as we faced so much change with a pandemic, politics, and our current divided culture. The Advent story is a story that brings us hope in the midst of anything we may face, no matter what the current season holds for us.

This year I decided we would investigate the characters that guide us through the story of Advent and Christmas. Every story has characters, some minor, some major. Their individual stories are woven into the greater story, filling it out and giving us a bigger picture. Their stories have popped up in previous Advent Words challenges, but this year we’ll look a little closer at them and the role they play in the Advent story. Of course, every story has a main character, and the Advent story is no different. Our main character is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and every character in the story ultimately points us to Him.

I hope you will join us on this Advent journey. These Words Challenges are meant to enable us to slow down during this season that is intended for waiting, longing, preparing, and reflecting. Instead, in our modern age, the season has become more associated with hurrying and shopping and consumerism. Advent Words calls us to approach the season more like a pilgrim than a consumer; to embrace the journey as a pilgrimage. Brian Morykon of Renovare.org describes a pilgrimage like this:

“Pilgrimage...It’s a journey undertaken with a humble heart and with an openness to be transformed. The pilgrim isn’t trying to get somewhere as fast as possible. She wants to become something along the way. She’s willing to linger, to reflect, to slow down.”

So, let’s slow down in the weeks ahead and read some Scripture, get creative, and go on a pilgrimage through the Advent story. Hopefully as we slow down their stories will ignite in us a deeper hope and peace and joy and love that is ours in Christ. We are all on a journey of becoming as we grow more and more in Christlikeness. May God meet us in the midst of this Advent pilgrimage wherever we each need to be met by His Holy Presence.

In September I did a challenge through the book of Galatians. I tried an every-other-day format, giving us a day to create in between the words. I polled those who participated at the end of the challenge and found overwhelmingly that they preferred the every-other-day format as they felt they had more time to read and reflect and respond creatively. So, we will try that format for this year’s Advent Words challenge. Below is the calendar with the words and Scripture passages as well as an Instagram badge with the words list.

Click on photo for a printable version of the calendar

Here is how the Words challenge works:

· I will post Bible study devotions, along with how I responded creatively, on this blog every other day beginning on November 27 through December 25. You can follow this blog by email or there will be daily links to the posts in the Words Challenge Facebook group

· Respond with whatever creative practice you choose: art journaling, mixed media art, scrapbook, photography, digital art, poetry, creative writing, calligraphy - any way you choose! As you take in the Scripture and devotions into your heart and mind, let it sink even deeper as you practice creatively with your hands.

·  Join the Words Challenge Facebook group where you can share your art and ideas and join the conversation through the Advent season and beyond.  I host a number of Words Challenges throughout the year. 

·  Share on Instagram and other social media with the hashtag #adventwords2022.