category: Advent

2023 Advent Devotion: Day 5

Advent 2023 cover

Thursday,  December 7

Psalm 85, Hosea 6:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

In March 2020, I was in Miami Beach, Fla., enjoying spring break when Gardner-Webb University abruptly sent an email instructing students and faculty not to come back to campus the next week. We had a few days to collect ourselves, and then all instruction went online to avoid spreading COVID-19. Everyone was bewildered, frightened, overwhelmed.

Most students went home for the rest of the semester, some of them to shaky Internet connections and overwhelmed parents who needed them to watch younger siblings. They missed their friends and the security of regular schedules. Some stopped doing any work at all and disappeared into the void. I sent messages to those students, and most of them got back to me eventually. When I asked how I could help, the answer was usually, “Just tell me when it will be over, when things will be normal again.” So may God bless the king. May God bless the apostle. God bless the teacher, the gardener, and the officer. May the father, the grandmother, and the friend, by God’s grace, “be like rain that falls on mown grass, like showers that water the earth.”

Uncertainty was making them crazy.

All three of our scriptures for today describe people in the in-between. The voice in Psalm 85 acknowledges God’s righteous anger and pleads, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation.” A priestly voice reassures the people that the time is coming when “righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” But that time is not yet. The speaker in Hosea sees the life of his community in terms of antitheses: God has “torn” the people, and God can “heal” them. God has “struck [them] down” and God can “bind [them] up.” But God is waiting for the people to show “steadfast love,” not just ritual obedience. They are stuck in the in-between. The letter to the Thessalonians speaks of their perseverance “in spite of persecution” and describes how they are waiting for “Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.” But no one knows when justice will come.

Advent is the season that speaks to those who wait, but wait in hope that the God who has come through in the past will do it again. What I saw in the darkest days of the pandemic was that my students and colleagues could CHOOSE to reframe their experiences in terms of hope. One student who had seven siblings went home to Texas, where she had to do all of her homework and supervise online lessons for her younger brothers and sisters. She made the best grades of her life. She decided it was a time she might never again get to be close to them as well as have an opportunity to learn time management. She wasn’t the most intellectually gifted student I ever taught, but she did better than some of the standouts because she chose to reframe her experience in anticipation of better things on the horizon.

And that is the lesson of Advent. Today we may be waiting for restoration, for revival, for justice, and the waiting seems excruciating. But the promise of Advent is that God hasn’t forgotten us. The child will be born. Christmas is coming.

June Hobbs
Director of Undergraduate Research, Professor of English

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2023 Advent Devotion: Day 4

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2023 Advent Devotion: Day 6

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