An elderly man at my church, a widower for a dozen years, endured chronic pains from aging, a drafty downsized apartment, a dwindling social security check, and several thou- sand miles between him and his adult children and grandchildren. Yet, his spirit was always buoyant. I asked him once, “What sustains your hope?”
The man told me a story. He and his missus, on their fortieth wedding anniversary, searched for a first-class restaurant. They found one that surpassed their imaginations—adorned with white tablecloths, fine china, and sculptures made of ice. Upon hearing about the anniversary, the entire staff, some thirty people—tuxedoed maître d’s and aproned dishwashers alike—broke open bottles of champagne, on the house, and toasted the couple, total strangers, as if they were celebrities. My friend glowed just remembering. It was a peek at heaven, where persons from around the globe will break bread together at the feast of life. These moments keep him alive and going.
Today’s psalm, written after the Israelites’ return from Babylon, does not speak of triumphant homecoming. The Temple still lay in ruins; the land yielded few crops; the threat of war seemed ever present.
And yet, the people remember. Jacob had fallen on hard times, drought leading his people to exile in Egypt. God heard their plight and restored them into a twelve-tribe nation. Remembering God’s faithfulness gave the Israelites hope. In the midst of decay and division, it kept their spirits alive.
Waiting faithfully within the wilderness includes remembering our hope—remembering our peeks at heaven in the past and remembering that the God who has restored before will restore God’s people once more.
Remember a sacred moment in your life. Savor God’s presence within it. Allow that moment’s grace to nourish hope within your life today.
Hopeful anticipation characterizes this week’s texts. God’s people have come to terms with their inability to save themselves. Isaiah 40 states that Jerusalem has “served her term” in bondage to sin; a new era is about to dawn. Psalm 85 continues the theme of old sins forgiven, emphasizing an urgent need for some fresh outbreak of God’s initiatives. Harmonious and responsible relationships are to dominate the hearts of the people. Thoughts of righteousness and peace also pervade the passage from 2 Peter 3. Yet the focus is clearly on Christ’s Second Advent. His coming will be sudden and unannounced; the new creation will then appear. The Gospel text focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus as John the baptizer comes to sensitize all hearts to the advent of the One promised long ago.
• Read Isaiah 40:1-11. God’s word of comfort brings challenge as well: How are you preparing the way of the Lord?
• Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. What glimpses of heaven in your daily life give you con dence in God’s steadfast love?
• Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How are you using this time of Advent waiting to move toward more faithful living?
• Read Mark 1:1-8. John identified himself as “messenger.” How would you identify your role in working toward the reign of Christ?
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