Part of the Gift

By Charles W. Christian

One of my favorite Advent stories is about a missionary couple on the eastern coast of Africa. They were waiting to go back to the United States, their home country, after having served for over twenty years and impacting two generations of people in the village where they were assigned.

They were temporarily waiting in a location many miles inland from the coast until their arrangements were finalized for them to return to the U.S. for Christmas and for retirement.

One morning during the season of Advent, a few days before they were to fly out, there was a knock at the door.  A young man, the son of a family they had known during their entire time on the African coast, greeted them.  He was holding a small box that contained a gift that he told them could decorate their tree as a reminder of his family’s love for them.

“Did your family travel with you?” asked the missionary.  He knew they were one of the very few families in the small village that had a vehicle.  “No,” said the young man. “I walked.  I got rides when I could, but mostly I walked.  I left my village shortly after you took the train here a couple of weeks ago.”

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The couple was shocked.  “You didn’t have to walk all this way to give us this gift!” they said.  As much as we appreciate the ornament, we would have treasured it just as much if you had mailed it.”  The young man then replied, “The long journey is part of the gift!”

As we make the long journey through Advent toward the celebration of the birth of our Savior, we are reminded of an even longer journey: the journey of the Incarnation, when “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).

May our hearts be filled with anticipation and gratitude as we walk together toward the Savior and the new kingdom He brings.

Prayer for the Week:

God of hope and promise, be with us throughout this Advent season, and draw us ever closer as we journey together toward the stable and the birth of your Son, our Savior. Amen. (From John Birch at Faith and Worship)

This article was originally posted at: Holiness Today

Why We Wait

By Charles W. Christian

“They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV)

The Season of Advent is about waiting; not a passive waiting, but the kind of waiting we see in this passage from Isaiah: an expectant waiting.  If there is a “fun” kind of waiting, it is this kind!  As Christians, we do not just sit around tensely awaiting bad news. Rather, we are people who eagerly wait for the best news of all: the fullness of the presence of Jesus Christ.

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Advent, like all seasons of God-centered rest, is a reminder that God calls us to wait so that we can be prepared for whatever He is about to do next.  In the Gospels, for instance, Jesus is baptized and lauded by the voice of the Father, and is then “cast into the wilderness” by the Holy Spirit for a time of fasting and focused rest.

During this period of rest, Jesus is overcoming temptation and preparing for His next steps. When His wilderness journey comes to an end, Jesus emerges ready for the next aspect of ministry in step with God the Father’s pace and not at the pace that the world demands.

Likewise, as we enter the season of waiting for the beginning of the Christian New Year (Advent), we are called to restfulness, preparation, and expectation. 

Can we begin to put the past year behind us and to enter into a time of dedicated rest? Can we refocus our hearts on the fullness of the Christmas season – the fullness of the presence of Christ leading us into new adventures?  In the words of the great theologian Jurgen Moltmann, Christians are “people of Advent:” people who live their lives truly expecting God’s leadership and movement into the future.

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to create such an Advent in us, as families and as churches.  This will set the tone for a truly Christ-centered Christmas season.  More than that, it will open our hearts to whatever God is preparing for us in the days ahead.  May we find rest, refocus, and refreshing as Advent moves us toward Christmas.

Prayer for the Week:

Oh Immanuel, God with us, truly in this Advent season we celebrate that you are not hidden in some faraway cloud, but you chose to be with us in the blur and mystery of our lives.

In the midst of lists and rush, you are with us as a song that echoes in our minds, as the light of a candle, as a card from a friend. They are signs of your presence.

We turn to you this season and pray that you would birth joy and healing, blessing and hope in us.
Let something wonderful begin in us — something surprising and holy.

May your hand be upon us. Let your love fill us. Let your joy overwhelm us.
Let our longing for you be met on a coming holy night: Immanuel with us once again.

Amen. (Written by Rev. Jerry Chism)

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today

 

Mourning or Miracle?

By Scott Armstrong

“While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.”But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region” Matthew 9:18-26.

Where do you see yourself in this story? Each character has a different past, a different need, and different reactions to the circumstances around them.  Maybe you identify with the hurting woman who desperately longs to touch Jesus.  Perhaps you see yourself in the ruler who is not worried about himself as much as the ones around him. What great faith he had in order to believe Jesus could bring his daughter back!

Personally, I identify most with the mourners (vv. 23-24). Not because I am regularly sad or anything.  Just because I am very realistic and usually want to help people out.  You see, in Jesus’ day, the mourners served a very important purpose.  When there was a death in the family, the relatives would gather together and call professional mourners to help with the grieving process. In fact, it was required to have several professional women mourners at even the death of a poor family. These musicians and mourners would weep and wail and sing dirges and, although it seems weird to us today, they would help the family and community release the feelings of despair and hopelessness they were experiencing.

So if I am a professional mourner, I am doing what I am supposed to do here in verse 23. It’s my job to help these people in the most difficult time of their life. Then, just when I have really gotten into character, this guy named Jesus comes in and says the girl is merely asleep.  Sorry, but I have to laugh.  Is He crazy? I know what I see. The girl’s dead. There’s no hope.  Let’s help the family through the grieving process.

But Jesus’ vision is different. Miracles happen when He’s around. Sick women are healed. Dead people are raised to life. When He comes on the scene, transformation and healing take place.

The world is full of death, hopelessness, and sickness.  So, what will your reaction be to the despair around you? Will you go around life like it is business as usual? Or will you pray, plan, and expect that God will do a miracle in the toughest of situations?