Dear ACP Family,
Advent is a season of preparing for Christ’s coming – preparing our hearts, minds, and lives to receive him. “Prepare him room,” as the carol says. We make space in our lives to listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice. We repent and turn from our sins. We remember what Jesus has done and who He calls us to be.
Advent is also a season of waiting. A now-and-not-yet time where we have the promise of Jesus’ arrival but await His full presence with us. This waiting is twofold. We wait for the season of Christmas where we celebrate Jesus’ birth, and we also wait expectantly for His Second Coming. That’s why you’ll hear so many texts about Jesus’ return read during Advent. Jesus came once before and is coming again, our promised God with us.
We offer this Advent devotional as a resource to you, your family, or your small group. It is intentionally flexible, to be used daily or weekly as best fits your time. For each week you will find two Bible texts, a short reflection, and seven questions for discussion or action. Some families might like to answer one question every day after dinner; some small groups might like to discuss all seven at once. The series closes with a final devotion for Christmas Day so that no matter where in the world you happen to be, our church family can celebrate as one.
You can find each week's devotional here on the website, or download the entire series of devotionals here.
However you use this devotional, we pray that it serves as a spiritual tool in this time of waiting, helping you prepare your hearts to receive Emmanuel, God-With-Us.
Scott, Tim, Billy, Emily, and Linda
HOPE – Advent Week 1
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.”
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
“For Christians, hope is ultimately hope in Christ. The hope that he really is what for centuries we have been claiming he is. The hope that despite the fact that sin and death still rule the world, he somehow conquered them. The hope that in him and through him all of us stand a chance of somehow conquering them too. The hope that at some unforeseeable time and in some unimaginable way he will return with healing in his wings.”
~Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC ~
The Israelites had been hoping for the Messiah for over 400 years, longing for the day when they would be freed from their oppressors and God’s everlasting Kingdom of peace inaugurated. 400 years is a long time to wait; surely they must have despaired at times. How did they last the night? And, more to the point, how can we last our night?
It takes courage to hope. It’s so much easier to be pessimistic or, worse, cynical. (At least the pessimist dares to imagine the future; the cynic shuts down emotionally and asks, “Why should I care at all?”) Hoping means staring one’s possibly-tragic future in the face and declaring, “I choose to trust in the character of God.” To admit the darkness of the world and to search for God’s light takes extreme bravery, especially when the waiting period drags on.
Hoping is also an act of faith. Merriam-Webster defines hope as “to desire with expectation of obtainment,” actually expecting to receive an answer. By its very nature hope lives in a liminal space, a now-but-not-yet. The thing which is hoped for has not yet arrived.
But, there is something very real upon which we have based our hope— something or someone that makes it hope instead of mere wishful thinking. As Christians, we do not hope in our own ability to bring healing to this world or in the power of political leaders to make peace or even in the innate goodness of humanity. We hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ. And my guess is that their trust in the unchangeable character of God is what enabled the Jews to keep on hoping for the Messiah through those 400 long years.
So in this season of waiting, sometimes clouded with darkness and doubt, may you know the weightiness of God’s promise. May you know God can be trusted. And may that give you freedom to hope.
Ask & Act
1. In the two biblical texts, what is the basis of authors’ hope? On what or whom do they place their trust?
2. What are you hoping for in this season of Advent, whether for yourself, someone else, or the world? Write it down and share it with a friend, then pray for the other person’s hope every day this week.
3. Do you tend to think of hope as a brave act of faith or as wishful thinking by those too afraid to admit the world’s darkness? Why? In what ways is hope courageous?
4. It can be easy to lose hope when we see the darkness around us, yet Jesus is still risen and active in our world. What are some ways that you see God working in your life and in the world?
5. I Peter 3:15 says, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” Explain to a friend or family member the basis for your Christian hope.
6. One way we can show our hope in God, is by caring about the world and seeking to make a difference. After all, we believe God is redeeming this world and working out justice and peace, so we can have faith that our deeds, however small, matter. Do one thing this week on behalf of justice and peace, as a concrete reminder of your hope in Christ.
7. Our hope in God allows us to have inner peace and joy. From that hope, speak (or write or text) an encouraging word to a sister or brother who may be struggling at this time.