The First Sunday of Advent – Hope

The season of Advent started today.  What a meaningful experience Christmas becomes as we ponder the birth of Christ throughout this next month.

The first Sunday of Advent focuses on Hope and the prophecies that predict the birth of Jesus.   The prophet Isaiah wrote of the birth of a Savior, a Messiah, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ:

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;[a]
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian.
For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Handel used these verses in his famous oratorio, The Messiah:

A hymn that is often sung on this first Sunday of Advent is Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley:

Come, thou long expected Jesus,

born to set thy people free;

from our fears and sins release us,

let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

hope of all the earth thou art;

dear desire of every nation,

joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,

born a child and yet a King,

born to reign in us forever,

now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal spirit

rule in all our hearts alone;

by thine all sufficient merit,

raise us to thy glorious throne.

Instead of rushing around for the next four weeks, cooking, partying, shopping, and decorating, let’s take time each day to think about what Christmas means, why Jesus was born, and why we needed Him to come.  As we stop and ponder, as we think about our God who humbled Himself, took on flesh, and became one of us so that we might know Him, may we each slow down and understand who this Jesus is and the true beauty of this Christmas season.

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To Autumn

TO AUTUMN.

John Keats (1795-1821)

                                            1.

    SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

                                            2.

    Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

                                            3.

    Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Restoration

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So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;  Joel 2:25-26

 

A few weeks after my china cabinet fell and we decided it was too unstable to keep, my husband bought me a new china cabinet.  Unlike the one I had been using, which was bookshelves with glass shelves and doors, this china cabinet is a solid piece of furniture which will not tip over unless we have the misfortune to be in a catastrophic earthquake.

How like our Heavenly Father to not merely replace the broken things in our lives but give us so much more, such better gifts than we had before. We have the tendency to rage and cry over the things we lose.  We mourn those things and ask God why He took them away.  Yet, we are His precious children and He wants much more for us than we can even begin to want for ourselves.   Our Lord replaces our lost things with better gifts, with things that are richer and more meaningful and more wondrous than our dreams.

Years ago, Elisabeth Elliot wrote me a letter and in it she said that the plans God had “up His sleeve” were so much better than I could ever imagine.  Isn’t that true?  Isn’t the road He has planned for each of our lives a much better road than we, with our limited vision, could map out for ourselves?

When my china cabinet fell and many things were destroyed, I never imagined that I would soon have a much better china cabinet, one which is not only sturdy and dependable, but beautiful and the showpiece of our dining room .  If the Lord gives us small things like china cabinets, don’t you think that He will also give us the bigger and more important things like love, joy, healing, forgiveness, the peace that passes all understanding and, best of all, life with Him for all eternity?

 Our Lord is always good and the plan He has for your restoration will be perfect.  Just wait and see.