God’s Providential Hope
Gracious Heavenly Father, as we delve into the sacred words of Scripture, open our hearts to the profound message of hope heralded by John the Baptist. Prepare us to receive your Son, Jesus Christ, not only in this season of Advent but also in the everyday moments of our lives. May the truths we explore today transform our perspectives and guide us in living faithfully between the advents. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’ ”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The Great Tradition
The way of the Lord must be prepared within the heart; for great and spacious is the heart of man, as if it were a whole world. But see its greatness, not in bodily quantity, but in the power of the mind which enables it to encompass so great a knowledge of the truth. Prepare, therefore, in your hearts the way of the Lord, by a worthy manner of life. Keep straight the path of your life, so that the words of the Lord may enter in without hindrance. (Origen)
Prayer of Confession
Forgive us, Lord, for the times we have devised expectations that limit your work in our lives. We confess the moments when we chose convenience over your Kingdom values. Renew our hearts, O God, and align our expectations with your will and eternal purposes. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Four hundred long years had passed since Israel last heard from a prophet – from God himself. Four hundred years of silence. But now, there was one who spoke from the wilderness. His purpose? To declare the arrival of God’s promised one, the Messiah – the one who would rescue God’s people.
How warmly welcomed that good news must have been, especially since Israel was under Roman rule. To finally be delivered from that oppression must have been music to their ears. The prophet John’s calling was to prepare the way for this mighty Deliverer by announcing his arrival. It was Jesus himself, just a few verses later (Mark 1:15), who would declare that his new Kingdom was now at hand. But how would a person become a citizen of this Kingdom? By repenting and believing God’s good news. God’s gracious and providential hope was still available after so many years had passed. That was remarkable. God never forgot the promises he made to his people.
And yet the good news of God’s Kingdom was not welcomed as good news. God’s Deliverer was not embraced as such. We know from the life, ministry, and teaching of Jesus, that he and the Kingdom he ushered in were not what the people of his day had in mind. Jesus didn’t fit the expectations many had for the Messiah. He didn’t seem to say and do what the people had hoped he would say and do.
Still, he was God’s providential hope for his people. Their only hope. Israel needed to be rescued from something far greater than Rome. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was willing and able to save his people once-and-for-all. But not many of his people were willing to be saved on his terms. Their hopes and dreams took the shape of a temporal desire – to understandably be out from under the thumb of Roman rule. They allowed the good to become the enemy of the best.
What are your expectations of Jesus? Are your hopes temporal only? Or are your hopes filtered through an eternal perspective?
Advent is the liturgical time of year in which we more fully and formally remember that we live between the two appearances of our Lord, Jesus Christ. His first arrival, which we celebrate during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, ushered in God’s Kingdom – his rule and reign in our lives. Our focus during this time of year helps us better reflect upon who Jesus is and why he came. It also gives us space to think about how we ought to live in light of his return.
Just as we are called to live responsively to his first advent, we must also live expectantly toward his second. That is the time, as C.S. Lewis put it, “when the author walks on to the stage [and] the play is over.” Lewis adds,
“That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not.”
Are you prepared for the coming of Jesus? How can you better prepare for that Day? Looking at and learning from his first advent informs how we are called and commanded to live in preparation for his second one. More than that, it is only as we repent of our sin and believe his gospel – the good news of his Kingdom – that we can enter the fullness of life he offers.
During this Advent season let’s remember that our hope is not in the circumstances of the world but in the unchanging character of our God. May the joy of Christ’s first coming fill our hearts with thanksgiving and praise, and the hope of his second coming encourage us to live lives rooted and built up in the power of the gospel.
Click image above to subscribe to my newsletter.
Thanks for stopping by. Learn more about me, my ministry, and this website by clicking here.
Please visit my bookstore
Click, Listen, and Subscribe to My Podcast
Connect and/or Follow for more content...
The Book of Acts
Click the image above to order this book and study guide about the most important person you will ever meet.
Click image above to learn more about and order this follow-up to "Lord of All."
Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.