Welcome to Week 2 in our Season of Preparation. At church this past weekend the sermon I heard asked the question "How are you going to make the Gospel more real today?" The question has stuck with me since and is still present in my mind now as I face a new week of work.
At first the question made me think, 'I must go out and preach the gospel! I must clothe the naked and care for the needy...'. How we interact with our brothers and sisters in need is certainly part of our response to the Gospel, especially during the cold winter months and holidays- when many will spend these special days alone. But as I reflected more on the question I realized that a response in my own heart was also required. I must be both Mary and Martha here- part doer and part spender-of-time in God's presence. There should be an internal and external response to that question.
My musings on how to respond brought me to week 2's theme of Hope and these passages from Psalm 130 and Romans 15. As I considered the theme and read the passages, I saw a simple answer: make the Gospel more real this week by embracing the hope I have in Christ.
An internal response to hope
Jesus did not come in splendor and glory, with parades and trumpets and angels surrounding him and announcing his coming. He chose to be born into very simple circumstances, quietly, and without pomp. He chose to come as one of us, so that he might know, intimately, the nature of our lives and show us how we ought to live. This should be a great source of hope for us.
We do not serve a God who is distant, cold or removed from us. We serve a God who wants a relationship with us- to speak to us daily and to hear us speak to him. He knows the lows and highs of our daily life, our temptations, our failings, our triumphs, our love, our sacrifice, our hurts, our scars, our dreams. He knows all because he has lived this life and he created each one of us. He understands our human condition. What hope we can have knowing that our great Father loves us and wants a relationship with us and that when we bring our worries to him- he knows and understands them. This fills me with hope and makes my heart skip a beat- that the God of the universe would choose to come as a human baby and would endure the same trials and tribulations his earthly sons and daughters do.
God's desire for a relationship with us and his understanding of our life and circumstances should be a great source of hope for us. Another equally humbling idea that sparks hope in my heart is the knowledge that God readily forgives my sin when I bring it to him with a spirit of repentance. This is a season where we ready ourselves for the birth of Christ- and this should include repentance of sin.
So with a renewed sense of hope- let's read Psalm 130. I would encourage you- as you read this, let your heart be raw before the Lord. Read each verse slowly and insert your own cries into these words.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
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.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.”
— Psalm 130
Here is the Lord's clear call to us:
"My beloved daughter, put your hope in me. For with me, you will know unfailing love and full redemption. I will redeem you from all of your sin."
an external response to hope
So I return to my initial question- how can I make the Gospel more real today? I know that part of my response must be in my heart, by choosing to embrace the hope I have in Christ and in his coming as a baby in Bethlehem. But how can I embrace hope externally- how can my words and actions embrace hope and make the Gospel more real? For this, I turned to the beginning verses of Romans 15.
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up... For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth... As it is written:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
— Romans 15
These verses provide a few very clear ways for us to embrace hope:
- We should have the same attitude towards each that Christ has- bearing with the failings of the weak, not seeking our own good, but the good of those around us.
- We should be accepting and loving towards each other- just as Christ has loved and accepted us.
- We should rejoice, sing the Lord's praises and be filled with peace and joy!
This last command in particular I found to be very inspiring- if I am indeed filled with hope from my Saviour, then my spirit should reflect this. I should be so filled with peace and joy that those around me notice! This hope, peace and joy should also lead me to loving those around me more radically- just as Christ would love them.
Let's try to practically apply these ideas this week by looking for ways to share our hope with others, particularly at school. Let's let ourselves be peaceful, filled with joy and not be shy about letting those around us notice it! Let's also look for opportunities to love radically (perhaps you notice someone who seems lonely, isolated or excluded at school...be the first to reach out to them!).
Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for the hope I can have in you. Thank you for coming as a baby, to live out life here on earth. Because of this and because you are my Creator, I know you intimately understand my life and the trials and joys that are a part of it. When things are hard, help me to hold fast to the hope I have in you. When things are good, help me to remember the source of my peace and joy. This week, Father, let me be especially filled with hope. May my heart so overflow with hope that I am filled with peace and joy and rejoicing! Help me to spread this hope to all those I come in contact with, particularly at school. Thank you Father for being such a loving, forgiving, merciful and just God. You truly are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!