This week is the first week of Advent. If that sentence made no sense to you whatsoever, let me explain. In the early life of the church (we're talking over 1000 years ago), the Word of God, his great story, was always a central aspect of worship. To them, staying rooted in God's great story was crucial to staying rooted in their relationship with God. Therefore, they created something called the "Church Calendar", organizing the major themes of God's story (redemption, sin, grace, salvation, etc.) into seasons of the year. Lent- the story of Jesus' ministry on earth and his journey to the cross- is one of those seasons you may have heard of. Today, the Church Calender continues to help believers all over the world live out God's story each day of their lives.
Advent is a 4-week season where we prepare for Jesus' coming- his birth, his coming in our own lives today, and the day where he will come again to heal and restore the whole world. This time of preparation for Christmas, the day of Jesus' birth, requires us to live in some very countercultural ways from how society around us prepares for Christmas.
1God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Questions to Consider
1. What is the culture like in this psalm? What is happening in the world? How is this similar to life today?
2. How does God respond to his world? What do you notice about his character and actions in this psalm?
3. What does God call us to do in this psalm? Jot down the commands that refer to us in this psalm (ex. v. 8 "come & see")
"Be still and know that I am God."
This time of year, the idea of being "still" seems crazy. Christmas is one of the most frenetic times of year- crowded shopping malls, numerous holiday parties, obligations to family and friends. Even when it's not Christmas, the idea of being still and slowing down seems ludicrous.
For a few years, I've been practicing the discipline of "Sabbath"- meaning that I create boundaries around a 24-hour period each week to rest, disengage from work, and slow down. During my Sabbath, I don't run errands, I don't check my email, and I do any chores (laundry, dishes, etc.) earlier in the week so that I can truly rest and reflect. This past Sunday, I went for a run outside while it was snowing. No one was outside because, it was snowing and cold (duh Alison!), and very few people were driving. It was so quiet and still.
With the snow falling around me, glittering in the trees, I was captured by wonder.
Wonder at how beautiful God made the world.
Wonder at how God chose to come down and save us when we couldn't save ourselves.
Wonder at how, if I didn't make the space to slow down, I would have missed this beautiful moment.
Silence and slowing down help us to pay attention to what God is doing around us. When we live our lives with no margin for quiet or rest, we miss out on God. Quietness & stillness are crucial practices that help us prepare for Jesus' birth and hear from God in our daily lives.
Sometime this week, consider how you can make space to slow down and be still. Perhaps choose to not listen to anything- music, podcasts, etc.- in the car when you are driving somewhere. Talk to God during that quiet space in your car and simply be with him. Or, take 5 minutes each day just to be quiet with God and do nothing.
Song of the Week
Listen to this song as a closing prayer for this week's devotional.