Posted in Advent/Christmas, Life

Advent Devotional 2022

Excerpt from Week One: Hope

The first week of the Advent season focuses on the theme of Hope. For many of us, hope is a fuzzy concept that often gets mistaken with a fleeting wish or casual desire. Phrases like “I hope you have a great day!” or “I hope this works!,” commonly appear in our everyday conversations. This week we are going to look at the theme of Hope in its biblical context, especially in the lives of the Jewish people of the first century.

For the Jewish people, hope was something that was all but smothered by the oppression they faced from the Roman government. They were a conquered people who were severely limited in their freedom and considered one of the lowest ranked people groups in their society.

Any hope of freedom from their oppressors was based on prophetic words written generations ago. The stories of a coming King hadn’t panned out yet. Popular fiction and a few revolts led by men claiming to be God’s chosen Messiah served to spark momentary glimpses of hope, hope that the faithful God of generations past would be true to his word and deliver his people. But, as time dragged on, revolutions were squashed, potential messiahs were executed, and the spark of hope was quickly smothered leaving them spiritually numb. They were stuck in their situation and most of their hope had withered away. These were truly dark times for God’s people, times foreseen by the prophet Jeremiah when he said,

“I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long….

My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” (Lam. 3:1–3, 17-18 ESV)

It was during this time; a time where hope was scarce; a time when darkness reigned; a time that seemed to stretch on and on with no end in sight, that God spoke. Zechariah, a visiting priest from the outskirts of Jerusalem, was told (by the angel Gabriel) that despite his advanced years, he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. This boy would be The Herald (The Announcer) of a message of hope that would change the course of history.

True to the spiritual numbness of his people, Zechariah doubted. This priest, a man who was supposed to lead others in the worship of God and constantly remind the Jewish people that God was true to his promises, didn’t believe God could or would do something so spectacular. As a result, he was rendered unable to speak until his son was born.

The first words Zechariah uttered, after his speech was restored, are recorded in Luke 1:67-79. They form a beautiful poem that recalls God’s past faithfulness to the people of Israel, recognizes that he is currently at work on their behalf, and looks to the future with anticipation. Through this poem, we can see that Zechariah was beginning to understand what the concept of hope was really all about.

Scripture Reading from the New Testament:

Read Luke 1:67-79

In Zechariah’s poem, we can see that hope finds its meaning in God’s character. It’s a confidence that, despite the situation, God is acting on behalf of his people. Hope acknowledges the present circumstances and views them through the filter of God’s past faithfulness. Even when his action is not evident, when we don’t know how he is working things out for our good, we can look into our past and remember how he has lovingly comforted, rescued, and guided us along the way.

Reflecting on these times is an act of worship. It provides us with a foundation of hope that God is present, here and now, working on our behalf. And, if God has been faithful in the past, is faithful here and now, we can trust that he will also be powerfully at work in the years to come.

Posted in Advent, Life

Advent Week Three- Supernatural PEACE

Peace

The Third Week of Advent

Opening Prayer:

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear Your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of Your presence.
We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To You we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’
Amen. (Henri Nouwen)

Scripture Reading from the Old Testament:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Opening Question:

What comes to mind when you think of the word “peace”? How have you heard this word used in today’s culture?

 

Advent Reflection:

On this third week of Advent, we turn our focus to the theme of peace. It’s common to think of peace in terms relating to the absence of things like conflict, struggle, stress, and anxiety. When we are not directly experiencing these disruptive aspects in our life, we might mistake the absence of these things for a moment of peace. Yet, like the concepts of Joy and Hope we celebrated during the first and second week of Advent, the biblical concept of Peace is more than our culture expects.

Rather than the absence of something, true Peace is experienced in the relational presence of God. It’s an experience of his complete power and utter authority over our existence, a deep understanding that nothing could possibly disrupt his plan and purpose for us. When we experience the Peace that can only be found in his presence, we are given a brief glimpse into how the kingdom of heaven operates, right here on earth. It is through this experience of his supernatural peace that we begin to understand that we have a King, seated on his throne, sovereignly reigning over all his creation and actively working on our behalf.

This was the message John (who would later be called The Baptist) would declare to the people of Israel. God is coming! The Kingdom of Heaven is near! Repent from the way you are living; change your self- indulgent and self-gratifying lifestyles and become an active participant in his plan of redemption! (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3, Luke 3:1-18)

Just as the angel Gabriel had promised his father Zechariah, John’s voice would awaken the hearts of a people lost in darkness and resigned to a shadowed existence. He would be the first evangelist, announcing the advent (coming) of Jesus, the promised Messiah, who would provide the “way of peace”, a path through the conflict and enmity of sin into a relationship with God. (Luke 1:67-79) By placing our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are freed from sin’s toxic stranglehold on our lives, freed from the conflict and enmity that separates us from the presence of the holy God. Our relationship with God is now one of peace.

This world is broken, fallen and infected with sin. Pain, suffering, anxiety, and distress are things we are sure to experience throughout our lives. A constant barrage of expectations and responsibilities can disrupt and disturb us, sending us into the shadows of apathy and despair. As we celebrate this advent season, focusing this week on the supernatural Peace that we have experienced at the beginning of our relationship with God, let’s not forget the access we have to this same peace in his relational presence. The Holy Spirit, who gave John the Baptist the words to speak as he announced the advent of Jesus, provides a supernatural resource that combats the insidious influence of the world around us.

Take some time to meditate on the passages listed below. Keep a list of things that strike you about the relational promises that are made in these passages. Begin each day by setting aside a specific time where you will ask God to make these promises a reality in your life. Keep track of how the Holy Spirit is meeting you in this and growing your understanding of the peace available in his relational presence.

Supernatural Peace in the Presence of God:

Luke 2:14; John 14:25-31; John 20:19-23; Romans 8:1-11; Romans 15:13; Phil. 4:4-9

 

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How would a prophet like John the Baptist be received by today’s culture? (Think about his appearance as well as his message)

Read Luke 3:7-20.

  1. What questions would we ask of John today? Would they be similar to the questions asked by the people in verses 10-14?
  2. What are some things in our own lives that we need to fix, remove, destroy (paths we need to make straight) in order to fully embrace Jesus’ reign and rule?
  3. How would the sacrifice of these things help us be more aware of the Holy Spirit’s relational presence in our lives and open us to the experience of the supernatural peace he provides?
  4. Think of one person in your life who needs to hear that this supernatural peace is available. Share with your group or family who the Holy Spirit has brought to mind. Have someone in your group pray for this person out loud, asking for God to provide an opportunity this week for you to share this good news with them.

Prayer and Response with Optional Advent Candle Lighting (Modified from Celtic Daily Prayer):
(*Leader reads- People Respond):

*We have waited long for You.
Deep has been the darkness.
*We long for You to shine
right here among us where we are.
*We will not fear the shadows that surround us
if only You will come among us!

*We await the sound of a cry in the night, 
the joy that follows pain, the coming of hope.

(Optional Lighting of the Hope Candle)

* This is the path that the prophets marked
who heard the voice of the Lord, ‘Whom shall I send?’, and they responded, ‘Here am I, send me!’
* These prophets declared the Lord’s simple requirements for his people
to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.
* One prophet said that a young woman would conceive, give birth to a son,
and name him ‘Emmanuel’, God with us!

* Emmanuel would come and preach good news to the poor
and bind up the broken-hearted,
* These same prophets rejoiced saying, ‘A Child is born to us, a Son is given to us!
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.’

(Optional Lighting of the Joy Candle)
* Emmanuel would come and preach good news to the poor
and bind up the broken-hearted,
* These same prophets rejoiced saying, ‘A Child is born to us, a Son is given to us!
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.’
*This is the path that John marked, whose voice called in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’,

The same John who cried, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of God is near!’ and baptized in the River Jordan
many who confessed their sins,
and who pointed out Jesus, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’

*Today, on the third week of Advent, we light three candles, the First candle represents the Hope we have in Christ, The Second candle represents the Joy found in the good news of Jesus’ advent, The Third candle represents Peace in the presence of Jesus, our King

(Optional Lighting of the Peace Candle)

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (by Casting Crowns)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
And the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
In my heart I hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on earth)
Does anybody hear them? (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep (peace on earth, peace on earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (peace on earth)
The life the angels singing (peace on earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men

Posted in Advent, Life

Advent 2020- Week 2- JOY

JOY

The Second Week of Advent

Opening Prayer:

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear Your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to Your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of Your presence.
We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To You we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’Amen. (Henri Nouwen

Scripture Reading from the Old Testament:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
(Isaiah 9:7)

Advent Reflection

The theme of this week, our second week of Advent, is Joy. Like last week’s theme of Hope, the concept of Joy has been diluted by today’s culture and mistaken for brief bursts of emotion or bouts of happiness. 
Even more confusing is the way that some Christians talk about Joy, making it sound like something that we must  generate out of our own being. If we aren’t careful, Joy can quickly lose its potency when it is mistaken for a feeling we should summon or a choice we make, especially when we are facing trials or the spiritual dryness. Although our intentions may be good, encouraging someone to “choose Joy” can lead to more frustration and pain in their lives, leaving them to wonder how they can be filled with Joy while at the same time not ignoring the struggle that comes from existing in this world.

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to experiencing true Joy comes from a dire misunderstanding of the source of Joy itself. Joy isn’t something we humans generate, it’s a supernatural attribute of God. The beautiful thing about this is that God has made the experience of his Joy available in the context of a relationship him. Even more mindnumbingly awesome is the promise that we can actively participate in His work through the relational presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. (Gal. 5:22-26) 

Rather than Joy being something we manufacture within ourselves, its source is found in the active relational presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And, as the story of Elizabeth shows, the way to access this supernatural Joy is through dependence on God when we are at our weakest.

As we celebrate the Advent season, we will continue to see that recalling God’s past faithfulness, recognizing his present work, and anticipating his future action on our behalf makes up an essential rhythm for growing our dependence on God and experiencing his Joy.

At first glance, it is easy to overlook Elizabeth and the  important role she played in the birth narrative of Jesus. We do know that she and her husband, Zechariah (the main character of last week’s Advent focus on Hope) were faithful followers of God in the time of political oppression and spiritual darkness. We also know that they struggled with infertility and were “advanced in years”. In a culture that considered infertility to be a sign of God’s displeasure, Elizabeth would be carrying the weight of people’s judgment and the shame of not being able to continue her family line.

Instead of giving way to bitterness, Elizabeth’s life is indelibly marked by Joy. Her response to the miraculous conception of her son is filled with language that recognizes God’s relational presence in her life as he acts on her behalf.

“Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” (Luke 1:25, ESV)

In addition to this, when her cousin Mary (who was pregnant with Jesus) came to visit, Elizabeth’s reliance on the Holy Spirit skyrocketed to the forefront of her story as she spoke a simple but profoundly important blessing over Mary.

Read Luke 1:41–45. 

While scripture only records a few brief glimpses into Elizabeth’s life, this experience (an experience she shared with her yet to be born son) identifies her as a person who understood and participated in the supernatural Joy available through relationship with the present and active God. 

It’s clear that Elizabeth strongly depended on the promise of redemption that the faithful God made to her people long ago. She also understood that her son would play a vital role in God’s present action as he would be the Announcer of the coming Messiah (Luke 1:67-79). This Messiah, Jesus, would fulfill the promises spoken to Mary and show mercy to their people (Luke 1:46-55). 

Despite her circumstances (infertility, advanced age, political oppression, etc.) she recognized that God had been faithful in the past, was actively working in the present, and anticipated his work in the future.

Questions for Discussion: 

  • To what degree, over the course of your life, have you experienced the supernatural Joy available in your relationship with God?

Recalling the Past:

  • Considering Elizabeth’s circumstances, what biblical stories of women who were facing similar issues (infertility, political and spiritual oppression, etc.) could she have held close to her heart, inspiring her dependence on God?
  • How does Elizabeth’s story inspire your own dependence on God?
  • When you recall your past, when were the times where his supernatural Joy has been evident in your life?

Recognizing the Present:

  • What three blessings did Elizabeth declare over Mary and what was the significance of each of these blessings? (Luke 1:39-45; Hint: Think about the Holy Spirit’s role in these blessings.)
  • How are you, in your life today, benefitting from these blessings?
  • Take a few moments of silence (5-7 min) and think through the following:  Over the past week, how have you seen God actively at work in your own life? Jot down a list.  

Share with your family, Life Group, or friends about these times. Give them the opportunity to speak into this and help you see how God might be using you to participate in helping others experience his Joy this Advent season. 

Anticipating the Future: 

  • What are you anticipating will result from this celebration of Advent?
  • How will your life be different this coming year? Name one area in your life in which God is actively calling you to experience the supernatural Joy available in his presence? (Think of areas where you: live, work, and/or play)

Prayer and Response with Optional Advent Candle Lighting: (*Leader reads- People Respond🙂

*We have waited long for You.
Deep has been the darkness.
*We long for You to shine
right here among us where we are.
*We will not fear the shadows that surround us
if only You will come among us!

*We await the sound of a cry in the night,  the joy that follows pain,
the coming of hope. 
(Lighting of the Hope Candle)
* This is the path that the prophets marked
who heard the voice of the Lord, ‘Whom shall I send?’,
and they responded, ‘Here am I, send me!’

*  These prophets declared the Lord’s simple requirements for his people
to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.
*  One prophet said that a young woman would conceive, give birth to a son,
and name him ‘Emmanuel’, God with us!
*  Emmanuel would come and preach good news to the poor
and bind up the broken-hearted,
*  These same prophets rejoiced saying, ‘A Child is born to us, a Son is given to us!
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.

(Optional Advent Candle Lighting)

*Today, the second week of Advent, we light two candles,
the First candle represents the Hope we have in Christ,
The second candle represents the Joy found in the good news his advent.
(Lighting of the Joy Candle)

A Song of Praise: Joy to The World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

Leader Benediction:

May God bless you and keep you this week
May you continue to be refreshed by the Joy available in the relational presence of the Holy Spirit
May the light of Jesus Christ shine bright in your life,  as you draw others to Him.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Posted in Advent, Life

Advent 2020 Week One- HOPE

HOPE

The First Week of Advent

Opening Prayer:

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear
Your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to
Your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete
joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of Your presence.
We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To You we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’
Amen. (by Henri Nouwen)

Scripture Reading from the Old Testament: 


On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, 
“Fear not, O Zion; your hands shall not hang limp. 
Yahweh your God is in your midst; a mighty warrior who saves. 
He shall rejoice over you with joy; he renews you in his love; he will exult over you with singing.” (Zep 3:16–17)

Teaching

The first week of the Advent season focuses on the theme of Hope. For many of us, hope is a fuzzy concept that often gets mistaken with a fleeting wish or casual desire. Phrases like, “I hope you have a great day!” or “I hope this works!”, commonly appear in our everyday conversations. This week we are going to look at the theme of Hope in its biblical context, especially in the lives of the Jewish people in the first century.

For the Jewish people, hope was something that was all but smothered by the oppression they faced from the Roman government. They were a conquered people who were severely limited in their freedom and considered one of the lowest ranked people groups in their society. 

 Any hope of freedom from their oppressors was based on prophetic words written generations ago. The stories of a coming King hadn’t panned out yet. Popular fiction and a few revolts led by men claiming to be God’s chosen Messiah served to spark momentary glimpses of hope, hope that the faithful God of generations past would be true to his word and deliver his people. But, as time dragged on, revolutions were squashed, potential messiahs were executed, and the spark of hope was quickly smothered leaving them spiritually numb. They were stuck in their situation and most of their hope had withered away. These were truly dark times for God’s people, times foreseen by the prophet Jeremiah when he said,

“I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long….My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” (Lam. 3:1–3, 17-18 ESV)

It was during this time; a time where hope was scarce; a time when darkness reigned; a time that seemed to stretch on and on with no end in sight, that God spoke. Zechariah, a visiting priest from the outskirts of Jerusalem, was told (by the angel Gabriel) that despite his advanced years, he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. This boy would be The Herald (The Announcer) of a message of hope that would change the course of history. 

True to the spiritual numbness of his people, Zechariah doubted. This priest, a man who was supposed to lead others in the worship of God and constantly remind the Jewish people that God was true to his promises, didn’t believe God could or would do something so spectacular. As a result, he was rendered unable to speak until his son was born.

The first words Zechariah uttered, after his speech was restored, are recorded in Luke 1:67-79. They form a beautiful poem that recalls God’s past faithfulness to the people of Israel, recognizes that he is currently at work on their behalf, and looks to the future with anticipation. Through this poem, we can see that Zechariah was beginning to understand what the concept of hope was really all about.

Scripture Reading from the New Testament:  

Read Luke 1:67-79

In Zechariah’s poem, we can see that hope finds its meaning in God’s character. It’s a confidence that, despite the situation, God is acting on behalf of his people. Hope acknowledges the present circumstances and views them through the filter of God’s past faithfulness. Even when his action is not evident, when we don’t know how he is working things out for our good, we can look into our past and remember how he has lovingly comforted, rescued, and guided us along the way. Reflecting on these times is an act of worship. It provides us with a foundation of hope that God is present, here and now, working on our behalf. And, if God has been faithful in the past, is faithful here and now, we can trust that he will also be powerfully at work in the years to come.

Reflection Questions 

Recalling the Past:

  • What images does Zechariah use to vividly remind his listeners of God’s past faithful actions on behalf of the Jewish people? 
  • How does Zechariah’s Song remind us that we are part of a larger story, a story of God’s faithfulness that impacts us today and will continue on after us?

Recognizing the Present

  • What relational attributes of God are highlighted in Zechariah’s poem? (i.e. savior, deliverer, etc.) Create a list in the space below. (It’s perfectly fine to list other attributes of God that come to mind as you are reading the passage that aren’t explicitly mentioned.)
  • In your list, circle the relational attributes of God that you have personally experienced over the past few months. Share a story with your family or group relating to your experience. As you listen to other’s stories, feel free to add things to your own list.

Anticipating the Future:

Take a few moments (at least 5-10 minutes) to sit in silent reflection. Look through your list, prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to help you with the following questions. Use this prayer to settle your heart and mind:

Holy Spirit, revealer of truth, search my heart and show me areas where you desire me to grow. Shine the light of Jesus into the darkness and let the grace and mercy of the Father be my strength.

  • Are there any relational attributes of God that I am not experiencing in this season of my life? (Put a star next to these attributes on your list.)
    • Is there anything holding me back from experiencing this aspect of God’s relational character? (i.e. doubt, fear, anxiety, a specific sin). Take a few moments to silently confess these things to God, asking for his forgiveness and grace.
  • Following this, prayerfully choose one of the starred relational attributes from your list. Ask God to use this Advent season to help you begin to understand this attribute better as you grow in your relationship with him. (Revisit your list this week and prepared to be surprised, God may show up in an unexpected way!)
  • After this time of silent reflection, share with your family or group the attribute you have chosen and, depending on your comfort level, why you chose this specific attribute. 

Prayer and Response (*Leader reads- People Respond):

*We have waited long for You.
 Deep has been the darkness. 
*We long for You to shine
right here among us where we are. 
*We will not fear the shadows that surround us
 if only You will come among us!
*We await the sound of a cry in the night, the joy that follows pain,
 the coming of hope.
This is the path that God marked,
who said at the beginning, ‘Let there be light.’
And there was light;
and God saw that the light was good.
For people walking in darkness a great light of Hope dawns.
The true light, Jesus Christ,
 is coming into the world.
The light shines in the darkness,
A light of Hope that the darkness cannot put out.
May God bless you and keep you this week
May you continue to be refreshed by the Hope you have in Christ
May His light shine bright in your life
As you draw others to Him
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
(Optional: Lighting of the Hope Candle)

Posted in Advent

Advent Reflection​

Enough for him whom cherubim,

Worship night and day,

A breastful of milk,

And a mangerful of hay;

Enough for him whom angels

Fall down before,

The ox and ass and camel,

Which adore

(A Christmas Carol, Christina Rossetti)

It’s hard to imagine the King of the universe, the Word of God through which everything has been made, being content with a stomach full of milk, laying in a manger of hay. For the rest of humanity, our appetite grows in tandem with our influence and power. It’s rare to find someone who has achieved both of these elusive things, while still maintaining simple tastes and an attitude that humbly whispers compassion for others.

What, we might ask, can the picture of the newborn baby Jesus teach us? Concepts like contentment and simplicity come to mind. However, these concepts, when contemplating this infant narrative, cannot be boiled down to a simple naivety and blissfully unaware contentment within the context of this fallen world.

The Word became flesh and did not hesitate to enter into with full awareness of the permeating sin corrupting his beloved creation. Sent by the Father, the Son left his place of influence and power in heaven to be reviled as he rectified our wretchedness, repairing the relationship we had so callously cast aside.

He accomplished this despite the cost of his incarnation; understanding his entitlement but enduring impotency, recognizing his righteousness while relinquishing his rights. Fully conscious of his kingship, he would sacrifice his status for simplicity and serve the people that were specifically created to render their own service to him.

Born to die, the King eternal,

the host of heaven declares his glory,

Lord immortal his reply,

our sin and brokenness to decry,

not with shame to bind us here,

but with grace to draw us near.

(J. Owen Carroll)

So, as we enter this season of Advent, let’s not forget that our eyes and hearts should be drawn to Jesus, who serves as an example of what it truly means to engage in the contentment and simplicity only God provides.

But, let’s not forget that this engagement is never meant to take place solely in contemplative isolation. Our community of Christ-followers (Life Group) is an essential aspect of this spiritual pursuit. It is humbling how our own contentment and pursuit of simplicity radiates through the mutual connection we hold with the Holy Spirit, impacting, teaching, and comforting those around us in ways we could never imagine! And what a testimony this is to unbelievers! A worshipful life, lived in pursuit of the contentment and simplicity only God can provide, defies worldly paradigms and runs in direct opposition to the manner in which this Christmas season has been misappropriated by greed and commercialism. Nothing sets Christ-followers apart and declares God’s glory as a thoughtful rebellion against aspects of culture that seek to habitually distract us from our Savior.

Reflection Questions (and thoughtful steps to take):

In what areas of my life is God calling me to pursue simplicity and contentment? (Make a specific list of these things and pray over each one, asking God to reveal how these things distract you from the spiritual pursuit of simplicity and contentment.)

Who has God provided to speak into my life, confirming things I have discovered and revealing further areas in my life where simplicity and contentment are lacking? (Be brave! Take this person out to coffee and ask them to speak into your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart as he speaks through this person and prepares you to receive their words without becoming offended. Ask this person to continue to pray for you as you seek God’s will.)

What aspect of the way I communicate to non-believers, especially during the Advent season, represents God’s desire for Christians to pursue contentment and simplicity? (Think of the people you encounter where you live, work, and play. Don’t fall into the trap of false humility or over spiritualize your desire for these things. Be honest and let others know that you are far from perfect but are pursuing growth. This is a powerful witness!)