Advent Devotions

As we anticipate a God who breaks into our world, a God who draws us near and draws near to us, Redeemer’s congregation was encouraged to answer the question, “Where has God come near you?”

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. Deuteronomy 4: 29-31 

In a recent reading by Christian author John Ortberg, I encountered a word that perplexed me.  Ortberg mentioned inviting God into our lives.   Wasn’t God already in my life?  I have always believed and felt that God, omnipotent, and omnipresent, is always with me.  

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…….the kingdom of God is in your midst.  Luke 17:21

God appears to us in unexpected ways during unsettling times. Even though I’ve enjoyed my solo walks, I’ve also enjoyed the accidental encounters that would never have happened if I hadn’t been solo-journeying on foot.

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.  Galatians 5:22

Recently the daughter of a nursing facility resident shared with me her pain of not being able to visit her aging mother.  In sharing my thoughts and feelings, I revisited my own concept of the Holy Trinity.

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Mark 12:31 “The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
 
In today’s world, it would be fair for people to wonder if God is as near to us as he used to be.
 
I was sick and you looked after me…..Matthew 25:36
 
Two years ago, I had the first of four surgeries involving my back and hips. It was not a happy time for someone who is used to being independent and on the move. I was fond of saying “I have two speeds—off and on,” Being busy, doing for others, and pursuing various interests filled my daily routine.  Suddenly, I had to put on the brakes and let others care for me.

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I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130:56
 
Where do I encounter God? As I write, I am hunkered down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult to encounter anyone, let alone God. It is hard to see God on TV or the internet. 
 
Be still, and know that I am God. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah  Psalm 46:  10-12
 
So the question for the Advent season for this year is: “Where has God come near you?”  He comes near so often and sometimes we miss it because we are too busy to notice. 
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19
  
He offered them what they needed.  Food and nourishment, sustenance, and strength.  A better way and stronger life.  But they were hesitant.   

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

In 1966 Japanese Christian Shusaku Endo wrote Silence, a novel about faith in the midst of adversity, influenced by his own experience of religious discrimination in Japan, racism in France, and a bout with tuberculosis.

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Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Psalm 71:20
 
The wind began whipping up in the small hours after midnight and the rain poured down on the roof. Sunrise brought less light than usual as the storm continued all morning.
 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God…to a virgin..The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:26-30

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For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20
 
I was on one of my runs recently and trying to conquer a particularly large hill. I must have been huffing and puffing, because a walker on the trail stopped and shouted “You’ve got this!” I was surprised how these three words of encouragement helped me make it up that hill, with a smile on my face!
 
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11 (Luke 2:8-20)
 
During this season of Advent, most eyes are directed to Christmas Day. Christmas Day is when we are excited about opening our Christmas presents to see what new stuff “we got.”  This excitement is contagious, the Christmas Spirit that passes from heart to heart.  
 
“…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me….just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25: 35-36, 40.
 
Where has God come near me?  I cannot tell you who God is or what God is. No one can do that. That is not within the capability of any human mind. All I can do is tell you how I believe I have experienced God.
 
“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1Thessalonians 1:2-3
 
Advent is a time of hope. By its nature, hope is a vision for the future seen from the imperfect present. The frustrating part is that we have to sit in the present. Or do we?
 
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