Today marks the first week of Advent, where we anticipate and look forward to Jesus’ birth. It is the time of year when we prepare for a celebration of His birth by slowing down and appreciating God’s blessings and love. Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas.
We started a new series at Mill City this week that is geared towards Advent. I love that even though Mill City might be “classified” as a “non-denominational” church, Pastor Aaron is not afraid to incorporate and recognize what might typically be considered only for the more “traditional” churches. (The reason all of these words are in quotations is because Aaron would much rather we not classify Mill City as any one specific type of church but rather as a “Jesus Church.”) But any way, the series is called Hark. Hark means to “listen attentively, lend an ear, pay attention.”
I love the idea of listening attentively. To listen attentively you must slow down and be still yourself. You must not talk and you must keep an open mind. You must listen into the silence in order to hear what is not being said at all. Listening attentively is key during this busy, busy time of year. Yes, it is necessary during all times of the year that we rest and recognize a Sabbath but during the holiday season it is especially important that we stop in the middle of all of the holiday noise to listen and hear the voice of God.
The first advent candle we lit represented hope. Pastor Aaron went on to talk about hope during his sermon. The sermon started in Luke 1 and went through the story of Zechariah, when he is told by the angel, Gabriel, that his wife would have a son in her old age, who would be named John. Zechariah didn’t want to believe the angel and asked for another sign to prove that this would happen. So Gabriel made him mute until the baby was born as a sign.
Pastor Aaron put this situation in such a good context. I love the new way he makes me look at a story I have read several times! He explained, put yourself in Zechariah’s shoes. Do you think that if an angel told you that you would have a child that you would immediately believe him and not doubt him? However, if you had hoped for years and years and years that you and your wife would have a child, but you were always disappointed would you still believe? And now that you are in your old age and you have given up hope of ever having a family, wouldn’t you be afraid to hope again even if an angel told you it would come true?
Wouldn’t you hesitate to believe because you didn’t want to be disappointed again? Can you think of another situation where you have given up hope? Hmm. I’ll have to contemplate this one.
“Hope is looking at the future and believing things will be different.” So simple. So true. What is in your future that you hope will be different?
Another key lesson Pastor Aaron pointed out from the passage in Luke 1 is this: sometimes, to remember our hope we must have silence. Silence can be such a gift, especially in this technological age where we are constantly bombarded by other’s words and pictures and ads and music and this and that. I mean come on, you are reading my blog right now aren’t you? Silence is key to collect your thoughts and truly see God’s creations around you.
I loved this sermon today because it challenged me to look at what I might just be going through the motions doing. It has challenged me to look at my life to see if there is something in which I might have “given up hope.” Or perhaps, what hopes do I have for the future that I am giving to God?
During this Advent I am going to try to keep up with a Devotional called, “Embrace the coming Light: Daily Readings and Prayers for Advent” by Eddy Ekmekji and Tyler Watson. It was recommended to me by someone in my small group from church. I bought the $2.99 version on Kindle to try and follow along each day as we get closer to Christmas.
This particular devotional has a different discipline for you to follow each week of Advent to prepare you and help you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s coming.
This week it has asked us to give up social media. Yikes! That one is one of my hardest to give up but I am so glad because I think it fits perfectly with the sermon. Giving up social media will be an opportunity for some silence in my life and for some time to reflect and to praise God!
I will be praying and thinking about each and every one of you during this week. And I challenge you to find your own silence. To reflect on hope and to anticipate Jesus.
I will leave you once again with, “What are you afraid to hope for?”