I’m not sure why, but I am always taken aback by how quickly December rolls around. Where did the year go? Even with Thanksgiving falling earlier than usual in November this year, I didn’t feel ready for the Christmas season.
And yet, the Advent season is upon us. Looking for some new inspiration, I came upon these words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and Nazi resister, spoken in one of his Advent sermons.
Look up, you whose gaze is fixed on this earth, who are spellbound by the little events and changes on the face of the earth.
Look up…you who have turned away from heaven disappointed.
Look up, you whose eyes are heavy with tears and who are heavy and who are crying over the fact that the earth has gracelessly torn us away.
Look up, you who, burdened with guilt, cannot lift your eyes.
Look up, your redemption is drawing near. Something different from what you see daily will happen. Just be aware, be watchful, wait just another short moment.
Wait and something quite new will break over you: God will come.
His words just spoke to me and gave me such encouragement and hope. I too often have my “gaze fixed on this earth” and too quickly forget that He is doing “10, 000 things when we pray even though we cannot see a one” (Jon Bloom). I too have “turned away from heaven disappointed” when the answers to prayer don’t come, at least in the time frame I had hoped for. Bonhoeffer calls us over and over to “Look up.” Why? Because He will come.
That’s what I love about Advent…preparing for the celebration of His coming to earth to be our Immanuel, God with us. I’ve mentioned before that I love to find a new book that focuses on Advent each year. Since I love and have been challenged by the writing and sermons of Tim Keller, the recently retired Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York city, I was delighted to find a book he wrote titled, “Hidden Christmas.”
Keller manages to take the Christmas story from familiar Bible passages and shed new light on the significance of the events. He asserts that “to understand Christmas is to understand basic Christianity, the Gospel.” In just eight short chapters, he gives fresh insight on how this familiar story impacted the key players, like Mary and Joseph, and the Shepherds, and how it impacts us today.
One of my favorite passages from the book so far (I’m still reading!), is about one of the purposes of the genealogy given in the beginning of Matthew. Keller writes, “…in the four hundred years before Christ was born no prophets were sent to the people, let alone a messiah. It looked like God had forgotten them. No was coming, it seemed. But then he came.
You cannot judge God by your calendar. God may appear to be slow, but he never forgets his promises. He may seem to be working very slowly or even to be forgetting his promises, but when his promises come true (and they will come true), they always burst the banks of what you imagined. This is one of the main themes of the nativity story, and indeed the Bible.”
So, if you, like me, are waiting for an answer to prayer that feels long in coming, take heart. God hears us, he cares about us, and he will fulfill his promises. That is the heart of the Christmas story!
If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you know that I also look for a song that speaks to me, in whatever season of life I’m in. I have my Dad to thank for that. He would always look for new music that celebrated faith, wanting us, his kids, to know that faith was relevant to the times. Here’s one of the newer Christmas songs I’m loving this year.
May you take time this busy Advent season to ponder how He comes to you in your Silent Night. He knows your hurt, he knows your name. Look up! Oh so warmly, Gracia