Anticipating Advent: Something Greater to Come

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art by Bonnie Patterson

The Lord Himself will give you the sign, ‘Look!  The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means “God is with  us”)’.
Isaiah 7:14

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art by Bonnie Patterson

“The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come.”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 

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An Undeserved Peace

“He will proclaim peace to the nations”
Zechariah 9:10

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

 

Our Messiah seems to love paradoxes.

 

Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming Messiah as one who would proclaim peace to the nations. However, once our Savior arrived in Jerusalem no peace seemed to come to the Israelites. Or at least not the peace they had expected. They continued to live under the rule of other nations, enduring persecution throughout the centuries. Where was the peace that the Old Testament prophets had spoken of? Were they all lying to us? Was Jesus lying to us? After all, he didn’t depart to heaven leaving behind him an earth full of peaceful people.

 

I get disillusioned when I look around at the world and my own life—seeing plenty of areas that are fraught with things that look nothing like peace. I long for comfort, but then I realize that comfort doesn’t equal a deeper knowledge of the Savior and what He came to bring.

 

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

 

Only in heaven will we have true comfort and peace. As long as we are on this earth we will struggle against the powers of the devil and our flesh. However, these momentary struggles within our personal lives and the times of unrest in the world are meant to draw us to the Savior. He came to bear the weight of our sins in the most un-peaceful and uncomfortable way so that we might ultimately have peace. Peace in full measure. Peace completely undeserved.

“Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

~Alexa Siebring

Resurrection Morning

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 
John 20:18
Death cannot keep back love;  love is stronger than death.  The meaning of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that God’s path to human beings leads back to God
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
On that promised resurrection morn,
the Light, unable to be bound,
In Sovereign triumph over death,
Stepped forth to leave an empty tomb
By folly sealed with silent stone.

Two Seraphic servants of the light,
at once in blazing glory stood,
Striking guards with bolts of fear,
Who fell prostrate like men dead.
The stone was moved to fully open.

Heaven’s witness to a Sovereign act,
is voiced aloud from age to age,
Witness to prophetic spoken words,
Death where is your victory, your sting?
The morning star is risen indeed.
~Pastor Jack Matheis

If We Only Knew

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:41-44

We have come again to Passiontide, and again we must collect our thoughts that we may understand what it means…
Jesus knows what that means.  It means debasement, revilement, persecution.  It means being misunderstood.  It means hatred, death, the cross.
And he chooses this way from the very outset.  It is the way of obedience and the way of freedom, for it is the way of God…And we are going with him, as individuals and as the church.
We are the church beneath the cross, that is, in disguise.  Yet here as well, all we can do is realize that our kingdom, too, is not of this world.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jesus is reported to have wept only twice in the gospels.  When informed His friend Lazarus was dead, He weeps in response to the grief and lack of faith demonstrated by friends and family even though they knew Jesus’ power to heal and restore.  The second time was on this day, Palm Sunday, as triumphantly He approaches Jerusalem and stops, looks down upon the city, knowing what lay ahead.   This time the stakes were not the loss of one life, but the loss of an entire city due to the unbelief and lack of faith of its people.

Indeed, Jerusalem, still torn between factions, faiths and fanatics, has not really known peace ever since.

I am struck by the compassion shown in those tears.  These are not tears of self-pity, nor anticipation of His own imminent personal suffering, but tears shed over the continued blindness of mankind.  They expected the militant entrance of a victorious king, so were unaware their salvation rode into their midst on a donkey’s colt.

Those sacred tears were never for Himself, but for us.  Human tears rolling down the face of God–Divine tears washing the face of man.

Peace no longer is hidden from us.   Now we know.
~Emily Gibson

A Great Gap Torn

Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 1:

Q: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

 

Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words.
They should remain open.
Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who also was and is his God.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer from “Circular Letters in the Church Struggle”

No greater gap was torn
than when Christ was separated from the Father,
forsaken,
choosing suffering
on behalf of his brothers and sisters
by paying with his life
a ransom we could never satisfy,
so dead broke are we
and captive to our sin.

Only the Word can fill
what remains open and gaping,
until we accept the comfort of his grace
freely given.

Grace great enough
to fill every hole
bridge every gap
bring hope to the hopeless
and restore us wholly to our Father
who was and is
the one and only God.
~Emily Gibson

No Need to Worry

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
Matthew 6:25

…difficulties are magnified out of all proportion simply by fear and anxiety. From the moment we wake until we fall asleep we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, and transform our anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf:
With sorrow and with grief…
God will not be distracted.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Letters from Prison

When one is a four-star top-rate three-dimensional worrier, even to the point of worrying about worrying, it is hard to let go of what seems like a profound and necessary activity.  The earth is still spinning simply because I am worrying enough that it might not.  The sun comes up each morning, because I have worried sufficiently during the night that it might not.  My next breath, my next heart beat — all dependent on whether I worry well enough, long enough, deeply enough and really get tied up in knots over it.

Worry becomes a huge distraction from living life, but God is not distracted by it, so why should I?
He says stop worrying.  Just stop.  Let go and leave the details to Him.

Life is much more than worry, and yes, life can be painful, full of tears, and not as comfortable as we would like.  Yet worry keeps us from life’s joy and rest and love, so much so that we end up missing out on the best parts by our clinging to worry.

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane : “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  Mark 14:36 expresses His very human worry and anxiety but is a model for us when we face something overwhelming.   Jesus places Himself firmly in His Father’s care, acknowledging God’s sovereignty in all things, and His divine purposes.   Jesus admits He wants something other than God’s plan right at that moment.  He is deeply worried.

But He leaves it up to God.
As should we.
As must I.

~ Emily Gibson

“You are never alone in suffering.  Worry will tell you that you need to carry the burden on your shoulders; Immanuel — God with us– says, ‘I will carry it for you.’
When you fall into the trap of worry and believe that you’ve been abandoned by God, you  won’t run to Him for help.  But when you believe that God was, is and always will be there for you, you can run into His loving arms and find rest.”
~Paul Tripp, The Trap of Worry

 

The Embrace of God

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

“I’m still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There are plenty of mornings when we climb out of bed and are uncertain how to meet the obligations of the day. The troubles we face can seem so overwhelming — we can’t do it without help and encouragement. Without that support, it can be tempting to turn and run, or hunker and hide.

Instead too many of us choose to battle through troubles alone, relying solely on the strength of our own feeble problem-solving skills, or our frail muscle power to persevere.  Some rely on the seductive fickle embrace of the bottle or other addictions to get through the day.

Like the prodigal son who sought to avoid the responsibilities of life, now at the end of his rope and options, unable to rely solely on his own wit or charm or skill to survive, we too must face head-on our troubles and seek out our Father’s compassionate and forgiving embrace.  We are asked to gratefully surrender our supposed autonomy; He graciously surrendered Himself to sustain us eternally through times like these.

We need to throw ourselves wholly and holy into the welcome of His sacrificial embrace.
~Emily Gibson