And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Between the broken beauty of birth and the resolved silence of death is a promise. It’s like a Phoenix rising from ashes. But first we wait. This middle ground is where we live. This is where we wait. This is the advent of hope.
Waiting, no matter how long, ultimately makes us stronger. If you do it right, you give up your life for the promise of rebirth; a second chance, an inspired ending. The middle isn’t for weaklings. It’s a threshing floor for hope.
Recently, I took a walk. Alone. I am in a season of waiting, and I am guilty of resistance. A walk alone reminded me to press in rather than pull away: to give myself to this season of waiting, to offer myself on the breeding ground of hope. A walk alone reminded me to let go.
The prayer soaked soil was soft and wet under my feet after a day of water baptism. The sun was ablaze in a clear sky. I walked and listened. I waited. And God spoke. A walk through a grove of cedar trees was all I needed to remember not to mourn a season of waiting. Observing and respecting cycles of nature will make most humans bow down at the glory of God. It’s a powerful experience and the sweetest hangover from which you’ll never recover.
Rows of gnarly, weathered bark camouflaged a canopy of evergreen leaves. Gently fingering each crack, I let my hands explore the wonder of time worn wood. My eyes followed deep grooves from root to branch. And there it was. I’d have missed the message of hope if I hadn’t looked up. A glance upward and hope appears. Green. Life. New. At first look, its peeling bark seemed to tell a story of defeat. These were the trees of the Israelites. They longed for redemption. A drink of water. A savior. But that’s only how they looked.
I wouldn’t have guessed it from the appearance of such worn trunks, but a glance upward revealed hope. There, sprouting from an abundance of cascading branches, bloomed the splendor of fern-like foliage, born from a tree that appeared to quietly limp towards death.
How foolish are we to judge life only by what we see.
Between the broken beauty of birth and the resolved silence of death is a promise: Immanuel. God is with us.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you remember when you realized you’d wait for God? Believe him anyway? No matter the cost? What keeps you going? Have you encountered an unexpected hope?
PRAYER: Dear Jesus …
You are the first and the last, you are the holy and righteous Lord of Heaven and earth.
Give us eyes to discern your quiet movement, your perpetual unseen activity.
Give us ears to hear and understand the wonder of your word.
Help us to believe the promise of your coming.
The ridiculous, radical, REAL truth of your birth
Give us strength to stand. Help us believe you enough to wait for your return. Amen.
“ … we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:4-5).
Every now and then (or perhaps more often than that), it might be hard to find hope in this world. Even in the midst of celebrating the birth of Christ, we may struggle to see the silver lining. At the height of all the revelry, it may be difficult to find a solid foothold or a ledge to hang onto. And so, Jesus joins us in the center of it all, acknowledging the dark and dreary and not requiring us to “buck up” or “get a grip.” Instead, he lies in a manger, a star over his head, and silently invites us to look up. Christ is at work in the world, despite evidence to the contrary. In this series, Advent Hope, join us as together, we take a deep breath and dare to look up.