Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC
Tuesday, December 5
By Rev. Jim Bailes, Retired Associate Pastor
Behold, Our God!
Read: Isaiah 40:9
“The way we conceive of the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly. Much emotional and mental illness and most suicides occur among men and women who feel that they have no future.” – Eugene Peterson, The Message, Introduction to 1 and 2 Thessalonians
We just may know the profound truth of Eugene Peterson’s life observation. From scripture, reason, tradition, and especially our personal life experience, we just may know the connection between despair of the future and pain in the present. Looking ahead and anticipating conflicts, sufferings, injustice, death, whatever, may stifle if not thwart any possibility of present peace and joy. Moreover, at times it may seem near impossible to anticipate the future with anything but fear, anxiety, and despair. Personal, family, societal, political, global, and environmental fears seem to be racing into our present.
The Biblical people consistently had life reasons to have a weak sense of a positive future, obviously so in the prophetic book of Isaiah. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophetic books are written in the context of exile. God’s covenant people have again been invaded, defeated, with many of them taken into exile by the Babylonians. Historian John Bright says, “At this point darkness descended upon the people of Israel.”
Then God speaks through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 40. “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God! Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (40:1-2). God later says, “get up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, BEHOLD YOUR GOD!” (40:9).
God invites God’s people to look out into the future, to view what lies before them. God proclaims they will behold, they will experience God!
Advent means coming, specifically God’s coming. Something is about to happen! Someone is about to come! God! Ours is an Adventist faith. That is, we not only remember God’s activity in the past, we not only experience God in the present, we also faithfully anticipate God’s coming in the future! In the Christ-child! In the Kingdom of God! In each and every future moment through God’s Holy Spirit!
Eugene Peterson continues his introduction, “The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future.” Indeed! May God in Christ grant us “a strong and focused sense of future.” May we go forth in Advent expectation, anticipation, and hope. May we look into our future and proclaim, “Behold! God!”
Gracious God, grant us the faith to accept, to believe, and to live in Your promises of Your Advent. Enable us to anticipate joyfully your Advent in the Christ child, in the Kingdom of God, in the very next months. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.