So, we are officially into Advent now, and by officially I mean, not just the church calendar, but chocolate calendars also, of which I am a definitely a fan of.
As I went to bed last night I decided I wanted to write something each day this Advent, so here’s the first offering.
In truth I have never taken true stock of Advent before. It has always passed me by in a flurry of glitter, ivory bearded wannabe’s and the distinct sound (or rather sight) of my bank account emptying. However, so much has happened and changed in the past year. I have had a year of so much breakthrough, deliverance, freedom, wonder and testimony that I feel like I am a different person from the person who unashamedly panic-buys 20 packs of M&S gluten free mince pies (the best BTW) just in case some other poor gluten-less sufferer dare to buy them before me.
Don’t get me wrong, panic-buying the best mince pies isn’t really a crime when you see what the rest of the supermarkets have to offer. BUT it is crucially missing the sweetest point, the truest meaning. ‘Christmas everything’ has taken over from the beauty of the waiting game, the very thing that Advent is designed to inspire. The season of expectation that comes with that has moved on from praying in faith, waiting in faith, and waiting for angels to appear and tell you that your prayers have been answered. Instead it has become praying in faith that another £20 would be in the bank so you could buy that thing you don’t really want or need, or that you haven’t forgotten the essential cheeses for your boxing day calorie overload.
We all love a cheeseboard (apologies lactose free friends) but this morning I sat down in the ever peaceful chapel that is situated on the land that I live and work on, and took stock. I have the privilege of stopping every Tuesday morning for staff prayers and this week was no exeception. But today it felt real, poignant and special to be stopping on the first day of Advent and reflect on what Advent is all about; what has been and what is to come.
I have been reading the Old Testament in recent weeks, and I realised that the whole OT is a waiting game, it is a period of Advent. It is a long time. 24 days has nothing on the years the Jewish people waited, with expectation, for the Messiah to come. There are some incredible passages in the OT that are profound, poetic and exciting about who and how this Messiah was to come down into this world and set it free of sin, of condemnation and evil.
For me this Advent is all about expectation, in the same way that the Jewish people expected a Saviour for hundreds of years, I have expectations too. I have things in my heart that I pray for daily, some weekly and some just when they pop into my head. I have promises over my life that I don’t believe have come to pass yet, but I truly believe that God’s word never fails. Why do I believe this? What is it all about?
It is about faith, and really it is about knowing our God.
It is the sweetest of advent joys to know that my God is the same God that sent an Angel to meet with Zechariah and tell him that God was to answer both he and and his wife Elizabeth’s prayers and give them that longed for son; to take away their shame, and to bring the plans God had for them together in Gods timing. Zechariah was so shocked and in awe and confused that his faith wavered. Wouldn’t yours? Years and years of waiting and praying for a miracle, and when it comes are we ready? Zechariah, becomes voiceless until their baby John is born. But his voice returns, his faith ignites, because as we know Gods promises are never returned to him as a ‘no’, but always as a ‘yes.’
It is a story quite at contrast to Mary’s. Mary hears that she is to bear Jesus and surely by nothing else but sheer faith in God, she declares who she is, who her identity is in. She declares boldly over her life “I am the Lord’s servant – may your word to me be fulfilled.”
In this season of expectation, what do you pray for by faith? What do you believe God has for you? Do you have promises that you haven’t seen fulfilled? Prayers unanswered? Prophecies that are lying on old bits of notepaper in shoeboxes? Words written but never seen or spoken again?
By faith we can walk in expectation. In every advent of every season of our lives we can know, like Mary, that God’s plans are perfect and they are fulfilled. Her faith see’s her through the most extraordinary time, of Donkeys and innkeepers and wise men. Of watching her beloved grow before her eyes knowing he was not only the son she bore, but the Son of God, here on earth to save her people, and all people. The paradox of being in awe of the risen Lord, and yet standing at the sidelines as her beloved was dragged up to Calvary. And above all to then know that Jesus, her beloved will one day return in Glory. The waiting game is not easy, but we have a God who’s timing is perfect.
I encourage you to remind yourself of the promises God has over your life, because the truth is this: thanks to Mary’s faith, that sweet babe born in a stable was to be the Saviour of the world, to deliver both you and I. The Bible tells us that “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.”
So go, walk in expectation each day; walk in faith. Pray and believe in the truth that God has for you and has placed in you.
In this season of expectation I cannot wait to see what testimony Christmas brings.