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. (Charles Wesley)
In our Live Stream Podcast last week, one of the questions we received asked what the plan for Christmas might be...Wes Taylor looked at me with pity and warned I may not be ready to hear the question. I understood Wes’ concern, after all, we are in a season where it can be a week-to-week decision about whether physical worship will be possible in the building. I was, however, glad the question came. Not only do we have some Christmas in July plans (July 26th to be precise), it is a question that reveals the unfailing hope we have in Jesus Christ. Christmas is a joyous rebellion against gloom, brokenness, cold winds and cold hearts. The question about Christmas reveals a heart that aches for God to invade this weary world once again and pour light and truth into human flesh.
In years past, many of us (myself included) have been guilty of jumping straight to the Nativity as we finish Thanksgiving leftovers, but there is a great and wise tradition within Christianity to journey to Christmas through the aching, longing hope of Advent.
It was during Lent that Covid-19 invaded our lives and altered our community. At the time, we spoke of the appropriateness of Lenten disciplines of fasting so that we might emerge more deeply formed in grace after being compelled to fast from handshakes, hugs and so many other forms of connection. God, as always, was gracious and generous in that season but the fruit that has been born in us as we walk this valley of the shadow draws me deeper into hope. A hope that expects. A hope that has been tried and tested but has not failed.
Advent not only reminds us to expect God to show up, it calls us to invite that presence. The hymns of Advent have much in common with Christmas carols but often draw more on Exile, Israel and the need for rescue.
O come,O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
I am so grateful for the generosity and faithfulness of the people of University. The ongoing investment in the ministry and mission of University has allowed us to continue to build bridges to Christ, community and compassion in new and fruitful ways.
Will those who are able, consider giving this July like it is Advent? Some folks may choose to double their monthly contribution, make a onetime additional contribution above and beyond their usual giving or choose to direct your additional giving to upgrading existing technology in classrooms. These upgrades will cost $1000 per classroom and allow for hybrid in-person and virtual Sunday School classes and Bible studies. You may also give directly to our Covid-19 relief efforts which supports basic needs in connection with our community partners.
Will you join me in an extended season of Advent this year? In word, deed, work and worship, may we give witness to our expectant hope in Jesus Christ.
From my longing heart to yours,