“Still, God, you are our Father. We’re the clay and you’re our potter: All of us are what you made us.”
Isaiah 64:17-18 (The Message)
Advent begins this week with a beautiful message of hope from Isaiah. The image of God, the Potter, is one that gives me great hope. My heart, on its own, is a muddy mess; but in the hands of my loving God, it becomes a vessel designed to hold and share His Son’s precious love. God never forces His transformation. He waits for me to relax in obedience and let His embrace create a new heart in me.
Psalm 51:10 goes perfectly with Isaiah’s beautiful image.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NIV)
Isaiah 52:7-10 is a song of joy that is appropriate for Christmas Eve. Isaiah looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. We shout in joyful unison as we look forward to His coming again.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, Breaking the news that all’s well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling Zion, “Your God reigns!” Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts, shouting in joyful unison. They see with their own eyes God coming back to Zion. Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem: “God has comforted his people! He’s redeemed Jerusalem!” God has rolled up his sleeves. All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm. Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other, sees him at work, doing his salvation work. (The Message)
Joyful unison comes when we proclaim the good news of Christmas. Christ is at work in our hearts, and He’s coming back. That makes me sing and shout joyfully with those in my path and helps me give and find sweet comfort in times of need.
Joy isn’t happiness, and that is a problem this time of year. Lust is powerful; we grab, get, and go at a rate that leaves us spent, disappointed, and tired after lust settles. Like dust on the floor after a big party, lust leaves a mess that is swept away or under something. It causes a downward spiral. Joy follows loving obedience and fills me with peace. Joy is free, and I don’t have to stand in line or go in debt to get it. It lifts my heart and brings me nearer to God and others. Greed surrounds this beautiful season designed to offer something better than what I want or expect.
Joy, love, hope, and peace are what Advent is all about. As I look forward to Christ’s return, I am able to wait patiently because I understand that love is all that matters. The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s lust. Wanting what I want may get me a little temporary happiness, but it keeps me from finding true joy and peace and leaves me wanting more. Trusting that God’s love is more than enough and obeying His call leads to love which leads to joy, peace, and hope. The world may not understand the difference between joy and happiness, but Christmas celebrates the birth of someone Who lived out the difference beautifully.
God’s gift of Immanuel brought, brings, and will always bring love, joy, peace, and hope to the world. It’s what creates the joyful unison Isaiah foretold. May it be fulfilled in our hearts this year.
Psalm 72 exposes the heart of a true king, very like the one described in Isaiah 11:1-5. In verses 1-7, we hear the fervent plea for wisdom, justice, honor, compassion, longevity, and righteousness from a king crying out to God for help.
“Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God, the gift of just rule to the crown prince. May he judge your people rightly, be honorable to your meek and lowly. Let the mountains give exuberant witness; shape the hills with the contours of right living. Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants. Outlast the sun, outlive the moon— age after age after age. Be rainfall on cut grass, earth-refreshing rain showers. Let righteousness burst into blossom
and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing. Rule from sea to sea, from the River to the Rim.”
Verses 18-20 put his position into perspective and show the importance of humility in a truly wise and just king.
“Blessed God, Israel’s God, the one and only wonder-working God! Blessed always his blazing glory! All earth brims with his glory. Yes and Yes and Yes.” (The Message, Eugene Peterson)
When I read Psalm 72, I see Christ. Some scholars argue that it isn’t a Messianic Psalm and worry about why it is where it is. I’m not a scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know a description of Christ when I see one. Christ was the perfect king, and Psalm 72 is a description of such a king. My favorite line is “Be rainfall on cut grass.” Christ is just that, and I’ve experienced the renewal of His refreshing love on more than one occasion.
Solomon knew the Messiah was coming, and I hear him asking God to help him be the type of king he knew His Son would one day be. I often wonder what it would have been like to live in Old Testament times without having Christ’s precious love available to me. Solomon has a vision of the coming king Who would rule as no other. I look forward to His Second Coming with the same kind of heart I hear in Psalm 72, seeing the earth brimming with His glory and His peace abounding forever.
Solomon was famous for his wisdom, and I hear evidence of that wisdom in Psalm 72. I also hear humility which accompanies all wisdom. Christ was a humble king who knew His Father was the “one and only wonder-working God!” He was, and still is, a king unlike any other the world has ever known. Thanks be to God!
Matthew 24:36-44 is a vivid reminder that Advent is about Christ’s return. Whether I’m ready or not, He’s coming back. That isn’t about gloom and doom but rather about joy beyond anything I can imagine. The season of Advent leads to a celebration of Christmas. I used to wonder why Advent didn’t come after Christmas in the Christian calendar, but I see now that it’s important to think about my own readiness when it comes to Christ’s return. Listen to what the scriptures say.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” NASB
Folks have taken this scripture and twisted it into what they wanted it to be. The part about the Son not knowing was actually taken out at one point, and many have come up with a timeline and even an exact date when Christ will come. The not knowing is a vital part of this passage. If I knew, then I could do what I normally do and get ready right before He arrives. Live the way I want, do what I want, not mess with my mess until an hour or so before His gets here.
There is a commercial that comes to mind when I read this passage. A woman receives a formal invitation telling her that her heart attack will be arriving in two days. I’m not sure what I would do to get ready for a heart attack if I knew it was coming, but I think I would be more serious about my eating and exercise habits. Christ’s coming is a wonderful occasion, but would I change the way I live and love if I knew He was going to show up in two days? Of course I would!
When Christ enters my life, my world does end; and that’s a good thing. I no longer am alone. I’m loved in a way I cannot imagine. I have the beautiful assurance that no one can take me from God’s loving presence. When Christ comes back, many will not be prepared. It is sobering to think that not everyone will share in the love meant for each and every one of us. That humbles me in a way that makes me want to share His love more than ever before.
Christmas reminds me that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to dwell among and be one of us. It is love that defies description, and that is exactly why some refuse to believe and accept it. I pray that as I focus upon Christ’s return, I will be like a child at Christmas time waiting and watching and ready to be swept away by His amazing grace, peace, joy, and love. I also pray that I will invite others to have the same expectant joy and wait with me.
Our children and grandchildren watch and wait for Santa during this season of the year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they trusted us to give them what was good for them? Both my little granddaughters ask me to get them a toy Bolt, and both asked me to get one for her sister. I was touched that they thought of one another and immediately found two of the sweet super dogs and let them have them as soon as they arrived in the mail. I know that God also loves it when I ask for something for someone else. Tyler learned early on that he got much better presents when he let us decide. I wish I would truly trust God to give me what He knows is best for me.
I’m afraid I am like a spoiled child far too often when it comes to waiting and watching for God. Childlike wonder falls by the wayside and selfish wants invade my wait. I love this picture of little ones watching and waiting together for Santa. Unlike a child waiting for Santa Claus to come down a chimney, I don’t know when Christ is coming. I do, however, know that He loves me more than I can imagine. That fills me with expectant joy and makes me want to get ready to greet Him. My heart can be like these little ones if I live my life filled with eager anticipation, knowing that Christ is coming back and that it could be today!!
Philippians 4:7-8 are perfect verses for Advent because they set my mind and heart in the right direction and promise peace when I dwell where God wants me to dwell. My mind wanders toward worry far too much of the time, but these verses center my heart and mind and fill me with peace.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” NASB
Here are the words from verse eight found in various translations. I find that when I dwell on things which are
I find myself filled with the peace promised in verse seven.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NASB
Advent is a beautiful season meant to focus my heart and mind upon Christ’s return. I can think of no better way to prepare for that wonderful day than keeping my heart and mind fixed upon those things in verse eight so I can dwell in the peace promised in verse seven.
Romans 13:11-14 paints a vivid picture of what to wear on the journey. Dressing and packing appropriately is an important part of the journey, especially if you plan to go in a new direction. What to wear, what to take, and what to leave behind forces me to make difficult decisions. The lectionary this week begins in Romans 13:11 and tells very clearly what not to pack. I believe it’s important to step back a few verses to get a clearer vision of what I need to put on and pack before heading up the path God has in mind.
Romans 13:8-14 The Message
“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!”
Since I moved in with my son and his family, waking up has become a blessing. The little girls always wake with squeals of delight. That was particularly true this morning because we had a dusting of snow. Hearing them wake up and play upstairs reminds me that I am not alone on this journey. I believe that’s the point of this passage of scripture. Love is what I need to wear. Love is what I need to pack. Love is what I need to pass along to all those in my path.
I’ve spent far too much of my live exhausted in taking care of the day-to-day and have been absorbed by worry and fret. Lust is the opposite of love and involves so much more than sex. It is what causes me to doze off and become oblivious to God. It keeps me from loving as He desires. Lust lures me into lingering and loitering, and it convinces me to wait a little longer and indulge in what I want. We are in a season of lust, and I know that breaks God’s heart. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas become a blur of frivolity, indulgence, bickering, and grabbing everything in sight. Many people fall into deep depression during the fall while others choose to be blissfully oblivious.
Waking up and getting dressed is a process that involves making decisions about where I’m going, why I’m going, and who’s going with me. The answer to all three questions is God. He is the Who, what, where, why and how on the journey. The only question left for me is when because He will not push me out the door or drag me along. I have to decide when I’m ready to get up, get dressed, and be up and about on His way. When I decide I’m ready to go, He’ll help me with the dressing and the packing. So, put on Christ; pack some love, and let’s get going!
As I was reading Isaiah 2:1-5 this morning, I was struck by the way The Message translated verse three. “He’ll show us the way He works so we can live the way we’re made.” The scriptures begin the readings in year A of the Revised Common Lectionary. I’ve decided to use the lectionary in a new way this year. God has been bidding me to take a new direction, and Isaiah’s glimpse of God’s path of peace is the perfect place to start. I suppose God knew it would take time for me to make up my mind, so He started working on my heart a few weeks ago.
Advent is the perfect time for new beginnings. Four years ago, I began using the lectionary as a guide for my study of God’s Word. I was working in a church office and teaching a high school class on Sunday mornings, so I followed Pastor John’s messages and found myself doing research on the passages outlined in the Revised Common Lectionary. I love the way the passages complement one another, and I love the mix of old and new testament scriptures. I began in year C and came full circle this month as I finished off year C for the second time.
As I begin the three-year cycle for the second time, I plan to look at each scripture and let God show me the way He works so I can live the way I’m made. That statement continues to strike a chord in my heart because the journey is all about finding God’s way and being who He made me to be. God knew there was no better place for me to begin than in Isaiah. He knows how much I love the prophet’s poetry. No one helps me see God’s vision better than Isaiah.
“The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.
Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Advent begins a new year in the church calendar, and I begin a new year in my journey. I know God has amazing plans and pray I will keep to His path, walk in the light, and be who He made me to be. His Son’s precious love sheds light along the way, and His Holy Spirit is a wonderful guide and traveling companion. I look forward to all God has in store as I look at His Word in a new Light.
This is the Season of Advent, and today’s candle represents joy. Joy is ours to keep, and no one can take His joy from us. The season began with the candle of hope. Hope is always present and is God’s promise forever. His peace surpasses all comprehension, and His love is assured. Philippians says it beautifully.
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NASB
The Lord is near! That gives my heart hope, peace, joy, and love. I can allow Satan and others to steal any one of these precious gifts of God, and weeks like this one certainly open up the door and give those thieves access. Jesus will close that door of grief and heartache and sit with me until the pain subsides. He knows that pain weakens and leaves me vulnerable. It’s why He came to make a better way, one where hope, peace, joy, and love abound and are mine to keep forever. If they are stolen for a time, He will help me retrieve and hold on to them.
Obedience leads to joy, and that’s the key to finding and keeping joy alive in my heart. Joy isn’t ha ha happy, and it isn’t Pollyanna optimism. It is His presence in the midst of disaster, sadness, and whatever else befalls me on this journey. He won the war, and I can shout from the depths of my heart because of that victory. He is coming again, and that is what Advent is all about. He has not left us and assures that He will be with us always. There’s joy in connection. There’s joy in knowing I am loved. There’s joy in knowing that this world isn’t the final word.
Obedience requires trust, and that means stepping out in faith and believing that God is who He says He is. When I do that, fear flees and worries wither away. I don’t have to understand as I obey; I simply have to trust God. Proverbs 3:5 says it best:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.”
The teacher in me wants to understand before I obey, but the Christ in me says trust in the Lord. I argue at times and fall prey to worry, but Christ’s sweet voice keeps whispering softly in my heart. When I get still, those gentle words calm my spirit and bring joy to my soul. Singing praises allow joy to flow down and up and all through me. It’s tempting to weep and wail, and I’ve done my share of that this week, but songs of joy lift. Hope, peace, and love join in, and the chorus becomes a heavenly one:)