The Advent App

Jessie, my youngest daughter, has an app that plays Christmas music while telling you how close it is to Christmas. As I write, Christmas is exactly 4 days, 17 hours, 17 minutes, 32 seconds and 543,790 heartbeats away. Oops, I mean, Christmas is 4 days, 17 hours, 16 minutes, 55 seconds and 543,735 heartbeats away. Wait, now it’s…well, you get the idea.

Jessica is anticipating the arrival of Christmas. Since before Thanksgiving, she has been planning, preparing, decorating and getting ready for the big day.

For Christians, we call this the season of Advent. The word advent actually means the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. When we talk about the season of Advent, we’re referring to the waiting, anticipation, longing – even yearning – for the arrival of Jesus.

During the season of Advent we acknowledge that a Savior is coming, but He isn’t here yet. Hope is on the way, but we haven’t experienced the joy of it yet. Advent acknowledges the integrity of a promise made that has yet to be fulfilled.

The Jewish people were well-acquainted with waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Four hundred years of slavery longing for God’s deliverance; four hundred years of silence waiting to hear a word from God. Centuries of enduring oppressive rule from polytheistic while anticipating the arrival of God’s Kingdom.

At Advent we’re allowed room to acknowledge the pain and longing that often accompanies the waiting. This is incredibly freeing because, for many people, Christmas can be a less-than-holiday-cheer-and-merriment time of year.

  • Many of us are living far away from people we love and not being able to them during the holiday makes Christmas a lonely time.
  • For some of us, Christmas can be a painful season. Someone who was with us last year isn’t here this year. That hurts. The pain is still fresh and real.
  • For others, Christmas is difficult season of year. Financial pressure, relational struggle make the celebration of Christmas seem forced. It’s tough to navigate the tension and put on a cheerful face.

Advent invites us to be honest with our grieving, disappointment, longing and loneliness. We acknowledge the world of deep darkness in which we live and desperately wait for and long for His light to shine upon us.

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I don’t know what this year was like for you. This year may have been a great year. But perhaps this year, you have a greater understanding of the longing that accompanies advent. Perhaps you’ve experienced unexpected loss, pain, heartache or unimaginable disappointment.

Advent says, “It’s ok to feel that way.” You don’t have to fake happy, push through or prop yourself up. Advent acknowledges the longing in our soul, but contains the expectant hope that our story is still being written.

Advent is a hope-filled reminder that what is broken will someday be repaired; what is hurt will someday be healed.

The extravagant promise of Christmas – even though darkness may surround me, the light of Christ will shine upon me once again. A baby is coming. He’s not here yet, but hope is on the way.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:21-23

Don’t Be Afraid

When my boys were little, they used to love dressing up as super heroes. Spiderman, Batman, Buzz Lightyear, Nacho Libre were the most popular in our family. (Okay, maybe Nacho’s a stretch for a super hero, but you know what I mean.)

As a young girl, my super hero of choice was the Bionic woman. I used to dream of all the things I could accomplish if only I had her lightning speed and impeccable hearing.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a superhero? To be able to accomplish great feats, rescue helpless people, defeat bad guys and stare down the face of evil without a single ounce of fear?

But, I’m not a superhero. Neither are you (no offense). None of us are. I will never have spidey strength, or cool Batman gadgets. I’ll never be able to run like the Bionic Woman or fly like Superman.

I’m just a regular, ordinary person with regular, ordinary abilities. *Sigh.*

However, God desires to use our lives to do heroic things. God willingly takes our ordinary lives and, as we surrender to Him and step out in faith, He meets us. The natural clashes with the supernatural and what seems impossible begins to take shape. What seems hopeless, begins to glimmer with life once again.

But that’s scary, isn’t it?

Stepping into unknown, unfamiliar territory with no guarantee of success. No assurance as to how the story will unfold. No control. No risk management study. No rainy day fund?!

One of my most difficult struggles has been learning to overcome fear. I’ve come a long way, but still have so…

much…

farther…

to…

go.

I don’t want fear to paralyze me and keep me ineffective. Instead, I want to learn how to stand strong in the face of it.

I want to confidently and consistently live out this scripture in Psalm 56,

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God has given us every reason to believe His promises and stand strong in the face of fear. Throughout the Scriptures, we see that wherever there is an impossible situation, God shows up in an amazing way.

One of my favorite examples of this is found in Mark 5 when a man approaches Jesus desperately needing healing for his sick daughter who is near death.

He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Mark 5:23

While we hopefully haven’t faced the extreme despair and agonizing this man was experiencing, we can all relate to the very painful, fearful, real-life situations that create stress and instability in our life.

The lab results.

The job loss.

The relational conflict.

The financial lack.

Jesus encourages his people, “don’t be afraid.

You don’t have to choose the route of fear. There is a greater power available to you – the way of faith and trust. It doesn’t mean everything will work out the way we want it to…

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Mark 5:35

Why bother? Tempted to give up, encouraged to lose hope, this man had a choice to make. He could choose to make this moment his ending or He could walk with Jesus just a little further and trust God to continue writing His story…

God may lead us to dead ends, and He doesn’t always resolve the tension. He brings us to a place where we must completely rely on him and step out of our comfort zone into the unknown.

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 5:36

If we were to write our own story, most likely we would choose to avoid the pain and discomfort. We’d go straight from asking Jesus for healing to receiving it. Why the need for the emotional, painful, long walk through the suffering and uncertainty?

Jesus invites us to walk with Him through the pain and respond in a way that gives God greater access to our life so He can work His greater plan. A path that allows God’s power to work in our normal, messy life.

A road that points people, not to the greatness of our human strength and ability, but to the supernatural, amazing power of God.

And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. Mark 5:42 NLT

 

Nothing Wasted

Conflict is beginning to brew. Private conversations are being conducted. Crisis is imminent. And to top it all off, Jesus is starting to talk about dying and leaving them. Jesus’ followers are now in full-blown crisis mode, attempting to control the crowd and calm the protesters. You can feel the confusion stirring and the intensity of the last few days rising, shrouding the future with an unsettling uncertainty.

In Bethany just a few days earlier, Jesus had raised a man from the dead. Jesus brought a man, Lazarus, who was dead for four days back to life…in their town! Everyone was talking about it. Many had witnessed it. Even more people had since seen Lazarus walking around the town.

Most likely, everyone in the area had heard about what had happened and people were flocking in droves to meet Jesus. The commotion was palatable and the religious rulers were even more determined to kill Jesus before the quickly approaching Passover.

Amidst all of the chaos, we catch a glimpse of Jesus at a dinner party, reclining at a table. And it was during this dinner party that a very unusual thing occurred.

To the astonishment of the host and guests, a woman walked in and approached Jesus while He reclined at the table with the other guests. Women in ancient Jewish culture didn’t hold an honorable place in society and they were usually not acknowledged or even addressed in public. Even more appalling was that this woman would somehow feel compelled to come right up to Jesus in the middle of the party! Ignoring the cold stares and callus comments, this woman boldly approached Jesus. Continuing with her display of gratitude, she took her flask of very expensive perfume, and began to lavishly pour it on Jesus’ head.

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. Mark 14:3-5

This perfume wasn’t cheap perfume you picked up at the Dollar Store. It wasn’t even the designer fragrances sold at the department stores. It was very expensive, said to be worth about a year’s wages for an average worker. Think about it – the average annual income in the United States yields about $52,000! And this woman, without hesitation, poured it like a jug of Gatorade on Jesus’ head.

The fragrance was also made of made of pure nard, a costly ointment that was set aside for the purpose of expressing acts of devotion. This woman lavishly anointed Jesus, giving it all to Him, emptying herself at the feet of Jesus.

She gave what was likely her most valuable possession.

And while many saw it as a waste, this woman saw it as an investment.

A life poured out in service to Jesus is never wasteed

A life broken and poured out in service to Jesus is never wasted.

When you understand the magnitude of your debt and the greatness of God’s provision through Jesus, gratitude will flows from your surrendered heart that seeks to hold nothing back.

Just a few days later, Jesus would go to the cross, giving His life for you and me. At the cross, Jesus held nothing back. God gave His best. Jesus gave it all – His blood shed, His life poured out in service and complete sacrifice.

Some look upon the cross and see it as a waste. Jesus saw it as an investment. Because you’re worth it.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  1 Peter 3:18

Aloha & Happy Easter!