Worship often helps me to get in touch with my deep poverty. I am never more destitute than when I stand before the glory of my King and Savior in adoration and love. The songs I sing never quite capture the fullness of my gratitude and love for God, no matter how heartfelt. The hands I raise can never quite touch Jesus’s face tenderly enough to communicate how I mad I am about Him. There are times when I am worshipping God when I can do nothing but stand before Him mute, arms by my side weighed down with the futility of knowing all I can give to Him is me. All I can give is my poverty.
If this echoes with you today, spend some time worshipping and thanking God through this scripture.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 Modern English Version (MEV)
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which has been given to you through Jesus Christ. 5 By Him you are enriched in everything, in all speech and in all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift while waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, and by Him you were called to the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
- What are you bringing to this prayerful time with God today (worries, hopes, fears, etc.)?
- What are you most longing for during this season of Advent?
Allow yourself whatever time is necessary here in prayer to get in touch with these longings.
1 Corinthians 1:5-7 Modern English Version (MEV)
5 By Him you are enriched in everything, in all speech and in all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift while waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If Advent is about any one person besides Jesus, it’s about John the Baptist. John was the proclaimer of this coming King. We’ll walk with our friend John the Baptist a bit more in our Advent reflections next week.
John famously said immediately upon encountering Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
While we wait for our coming King this Advent season, John makes it clear that our waiting is not like waiting for the Super Bowl to begin by munching on appetizers and talking with our friends about who we think will win the game. We don’t wait for Jesus this Advent season like we are waiting for the waiter to bring us our main course while we sip wine, laugh and nibble on the appetizers.
Advent waiting is the hard kind of waiting.
We wait for our King by preparing ourselves for His arrival. This kind of waiting is more like the determined miles and miles we run, rain, snow or shine, while preparing for a marathon. It is the cries of pain before the childbirth. It’s the painful, I-don’t-know-how-I-can-ever-forgive-them-for-what-they’ve-done-but-I-must before the healing kind of waiting.
The only way to see God’s gifts is to decrease.
Advent waiting is getting to the point where we can truly see we aren’t lacking in any good gift (verse 7).
These two sentences belong on the same line all scrunched together; they are the experience of Advent waiting encapsulated and concentrated. These two sentences are the hard tension of Advent we must deal with if our waiting is to be fruitful.
God’s gifts are hard to see. I must decrease.
While we wait, we have His gifts. But, they are wrapped in what we refuse to give up.
God’s gift is wrapped inside…
…our need to let go of the retaliation we harbor toward those who have wronged us.
…the greed for more and the need for security both obscuring our real need to control.
…our fears that block compassion and love.
…our deception of ourselves and others so we don’t have to face our own poverty.
…our silence that allows us to look the other way when God’s children, no matter to which political or social strata they belong, are wronged and we refuse to step out of the insulated silence of our personal safe room to speak out on their behalf or help in some practical way.
Waiting during Advent is not like waiting in the doctor’s office thumbing through magazines, sipping our complimentary Keurig coffee while saccharine Christmas music tinkles our ears.
Advent is more like recognizing we are in the operating room right now, wide awake, while the surgeon does His work to excise all that wasn’t ever supposed to be there in the first place. This skilled surgeon is removing the parts of us that must decrease so we can notice the life He always dreamed for us.
It’s hard work with no anesthesia.
The hard part is staying still on the operating table.
- While you wait for Jesus, what do you need to decrease?
- What gifts to you intuitively sense are already there if you would but remove the wrapping of whatever you don’t want to give up?
- How does what you are waiting for and what God is calling you to unwrap intersect with your deepest longings you’ve been prayerfully considering this Advent season?
Using 1 Corinthians 1:8 as a guide, pray for one person who you know needs to be strengthened today.
A Closing Prayer
I know the nativity is coming. I know you are always coming. Lord, help me to decrease so that I may see the ways in which you’ve already arrived in my life with the gift of Yourself. Lord, show me what I need to unwrap on my way to the manger so I can give you the gift of my poverty, of myself.
This Evening and Tomorrow Morning
- This evening, continue again to rest in whatever God gave you during your time of worship a couple days ago with Psalm 80:3. Return to this often over this Advent season.
- When you awaken tomorrow morning for prayer, consider reaching out to someone close to you and sharing an area you sense God is leading you to let go of or decrease.
Scriptures from Our Advent Series
Texts for First Advent Week: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
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