As we enter our second week of Advent preparation, let’s begin with praising God for all the ways in which He has been kind to us. Just enjoy a few moments, or longer, of allowing the Spirit to bring to mind all those times in your life where God has intervened with His kindness – and thank Him.
Psalm 85:1-2 Common English Bible (CEB)
For the music leader. Of the Korahites. A psalm.
85 Lord, you’ve been kind to your land;
you’ve changed Jacob’s circumstances for the better.
2 You’ve forgiven your people’s wrongdoing;
you’ve covered all their sins. Selah
- What are you bringing to this prayerful time with God today (worries, hopes, fears, etc.)?
- As we now move into our second week, start to bring before God your deepest desire. What are you most hoping for when He comes? Why do you desire this? What does God think about it?
Allow yourself whatever time is necessary here in prayer to get in touch with this deep longing of your soul while allowing God to speak.
Isaiah 40:1-11 Common English Bible (CEB)
Comfort for God’s people
40 Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
2 Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
3 A voice is crying out:
Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
4 Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
5 The Lord’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.
6 A voice was saying:
What should I call out?
All flesh is grass;
all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass dries up
and the flower withers
when the Lord’s breath blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.
8The grass dries up;
the flower withers,
but our God’s word will exist forever.
9 Go up on a high mountain,
Raise your voice and shout,
Raise it; don’t be afraid;
say to the cities of Judah,
Here is your God!
10 Here is the Lord God,
coming with strength,
with a triumphant arm,
bringing his reward with him
and his payment before him.
11 Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;
he will gather lambs in his arms
and lift them onto his lap.
He will gently guide the nursing ewes.
During this second week of Advent, we start to notice a voice in the distance.
As we journeyed through last week’s Advent reflections, it became clear our waiting was of the more desperate kind than the cheery waiting to open the Christmas packages under the tree. The Advent-type waiting we read about in scripture is the kind of waiting that is despairing and nearly without hope.
If God didn’t move and send His long-promised King, the people were sure they would die.
I’ve experienced this kind of desperation and I’m sure you have as well.
Lord, if you don’t help me here, I’ll never break free of this addiction.
Lord, if you don’t come quickly, the one I love is going to die.
Lord, if you don’t provide, we are going to lose everything.
And in each of the places, I’ve found myself by choice, and sometimes not by my choice, under the rule of another king. But, this awful king speaks words of condemnation, shame and guilt. This king gains submission through pummeling disgrace.
We begin to doubt first ourselves, then God.
We doubt ourselves because our hardwired autonomy knows no other way to make sense of the prison we find ourselves in than to assume we free-willed our way into it – it’s just how we see things.
And we doubt God because we’ve never seen Him any other way than as separate from us, outside of our prison cell, dispassionately watching from a distance.
This dark king to whom we submit seems closer, though, doesn’t he?
Sometimes he seemingly throws open the cell door and steers us toward vistas that delight the eyes and rich buffets that fill our bellies.
But there always comes that one moment, every single time, when the mood changes suddenly, the wine glass is struck from our hand, and in mid-laugh we are thrown by the nape of our neck back into our cell with the heavy door clanking in the darkness behind us.
And all we hear is nearby laughing that somehow fills us with shame.
9 Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion! Raise your voice and shout, messenger Jerusalem!
But during this Advent season of waiting, we can remind ourselves, from our prison if necessary, that God is a God of reality.
Only then can we start to hear His voice, first in the distance faintly, because He knows distance from Him is our reality. This distant place is where we have put Him. We’ve simply never seen Him any other way.
And though He is nearer to us than we can even imagine, this is where He comes to us, right where we imagine Him to be, as a faint voice in the distance.
And what are His first words to us, His people trapped in darkness, submitting by choice and not by choice to an evil ruler?
40 Comfort, comfort my people! says your God.
We surely want to be free of our addiction. We surely want Him to simply bring healing to someone we love. We surely want God to show up with a check, like winning the lottery.
But God is more concerned with us getting where, and who, He is. He knows we need more than an addiction counselor, skilled doctor and sugar daddy.
He knows we need Him. He knows we need to understand He is hardwired into us. He knows we need to understand He is near.
5 The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together; the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.
- As you listen to God’s voice, are there places where you sense His words of comfort are coming more from a distance? Is God inviting you to invite Him closer?
- In verse 9 above, God says to not be afraid. Are there places in your life where God is asking you to trust Him and not fear?
Today, ask God to give you one person to pray for that they may hear God’s voice.
A Closing Prayer
Even with 2,000 years of evidence of your great love for us, even with the Holy Scriptures as a reliable witness to your great coming, death and resurrection, today I still find myself placing you at a distance. Lord, then this is precisely where you call out to me. Even though you are closer to me than I can imagine, you know I’ll be listening for you in the distance. What an amazing God you are.
This Evening and Tomorrow Morning
- This evening, continue again to worship through Psalm 80:3 as a personal prayer. Return to this often over this Advent season.
- Tomorrow morning, simply spend time reflecting on this great passage from Isaiah and reflect on today?s Advent devotional to start your day.
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
Texts for Second Advent Week: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Mark 1:1-8