O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you. in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory. now and for ever. Amen.
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
For in hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [Romans 8.24-25]
I've been doing some thinking about the idea of hope lately. It seems that everywhere you turn this advent season this idea of hope is central. This week's advent readings from Mars Hill have focused on the idea of hope and have only added to my questions about hope. Here's what I've been wrestling with lately: What is it that we are hoping for? This is not a question about who we are hoping in, or where our hope is placed. The question I think is much more base. What is it that are we waiting patiently for? And following that - How does the advent season offer a glimpse of this hope?
My hunch is that how we answer this question says a lot about our relationship with God, self and others. I think it also has a lot to say about what we think Christianity is and how we practice our faith in this world.
I think it for some it would be easy to say that our hope is for the forgiveness of sin, but I'm not completely convinced that the center piece of our hope is forgiveness. I don't really hear the collective cry of the people of God in the day of Jesus as a need for forgiveness of sin. I think that is part of it - but it is only a part, and perhaps a small part, of something much bigger.
The more I think about the idea of hope and what we are hoping for, I keep coming back to the idea of "salvation." I think our hope is for a completely and all-encompassing salvation.
I think the great heresy of the popular Christianity [evangelicalism?] is the reduction of salvation to merely a transaction based upon a set of propositional beliefs. Salvation, the kind we find in the text and in the cultural understanding of the day, appears to embrace something much larger in scope. Salvation was something that impacted all of creation, not merely a segment of it. Romans 8.18-27 delves more deeply into this, even invoking creation as a recipient of the hope of salvation.
Our hope needs to be in reference to something larger than merely the forgiveness of our sins and "being in heaven someday." Our hope needs to be for something more tangible, as well as transcendent. Our hope is for something to happen in this world. It is a hope for something in our lives and the lives of those around us. It is also a hope that somehow this world is fundamentally changed - that all of creation feels the impact of salvation and the coming of Jesus.
Jesus came to bring salvation, real salvation, to this world. He came to bring hope and light in the midst of darkness. He came to touch, and heal, and restore. He came to speak words of love and grace. He came to die and rise again. All of these things are intimately woven into the fabric of our hope.
Our hope is for restoration and reconciliation. It is for all things to be made new again, made whole and right again. It is for all things, for all creation, to be put back to rights again.
Mars Hill Bible Church has posted a series of scriptural readings for the Advent season. If you are looking for a way to welcome the coming Jesus this season, these readings might be just the thing. I know that I'll be reading them, as well as meditating and perhaps doing a bit of written reflection throughout the season. Here's from the Mars Hill website:
These daily readings were chosen to help capture four main Advent
themes: hope, peace, joy, and love. Be encouraged as you read, knowing
many others in our community are reading and reflecting on these themes
WEEK 1 - HOPE Nov 30 - Isaiah 40v1-5
Dec 1 - Psalm 42
Dec 2 - Romans 8v18-27
Dec 3 - Isaiah 11v1-10
Dec 4 - Hebrews 6v13-20
Dec 5 - Psalm 33
Dec 6 - Isaiah 35
WEEK 2 - PEACE Dec 7 - Isaiah 40v9-11
Dec 8 - Philippians 4v4-7
Dec 9 - Jeremiah 33v7-16
Dec 10 - Isaiah 42v1-9
Dec 11 - Zechariah 9v9-17
Dec 12 - 2 Corinthians 1v2-5
Dec 13 - Isaiah 52v7-10
WEEK 3 - JOY Dec 14 - Habakkuk 3
Dec 15 - John 16v5-28
Dec 16 - Isaiah 55v9-13
Dec 17 - Psalm 66
Dec 18 - 1 Peter 1v3-9
Dec 19 - Psalm 96
Dec 20 - Isaiah 12
WEEK 4 - LOVE Dec 21 - Zephaniah 3v14-20 Dec 22 - Psalm 89v1-4 Dec 23 - Ephesians 2v1-10 Dec 24 - Isaiah 9v6-7
May your Advent season be filled with hope, peace, joy, and love as you embrace the coming of Jesus and the Kingdom among us.
Jamie and I have been talking lately about what Christmas has become. Perhaps it is remembering the past, when as kids you used to approach Christmas with a sense if wonder and awe. Perhaps it is the state of the economy. Perhaps it is something deeper...
I think what we are longing for is something more from the season - to not miss the essence of what the advent is all about by being blinded by all the season has become. It is refreshing to see things like the Advent Conspiracy.
It is a reminder that we are not alone in our hope for something better this season.
Almighty God, give us the grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
A prayer of thanks from The Book of Common Prayer:
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
May you be blessed with a deep and abiding spirit of thanks this day - for all that God has done for creation and the kingdom. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.