These are devotions I wrote for the third week of Advent based on our worship theme at Peace of The Weary World Rejoices! I started with the lectionary readings and found it interesting how they inspired me in reverse.
What should we do?
Day 1: Read Luke 3:7–18. Wouldn't we love to have some general outline of what it is we should be doing - to know what exactly is God's will for our lives? In a book I read recently, the heroine is about to embark on an exciting, scary, unknown adventure for which she feels ill-prepared. When she asks advice from a wise woman about what she should do, the woman tells her to simply focus on what's ahead. Maybe that is good advice for all of us. Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about having the right skills at the right time or look back on where we've been or try to plan out ahead the adven- ture of our life, but instead really focus on what's ahead of us. What opportunities to help one another are right in the path of our every day lives. These opportunities may often seem like potholes to avoid or construction zones to detour around until we find the smooth road again, but maybe what we are called to do is to mend the road we are on.
Follow my example.
Day 2: Read Philippians 4:8-9. Paul offers another clue about what we should do to help one another. First, we need to look and find where there is good, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and excellent work being done in the world and think about that. Next, we need to do the things that we have learned, received, heard and seen from people doing this work. That first step may seem like a giant leap for us, but by following the example of another, we can find a measure of comfort that at least someone else has scouted the way ahead.
Always be gentle with others.
Day 3: Read Philippians 4:1-7. One thing you may not expect to encounter when trying to help another is resistance. Sometimes helping another means altering the status quo and that's where help meets passive, active and sometimes even angry resistance. With change, someone is going to have to give something up and even if it is for the greater good, that's not a normal human reaction. In our quick fix, just do it culture, the mantra we've learned is that "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." According to Paul, toughness is not going to get the job done, but gentleness, prayer and a thankful heart will bless us with the peace we need to carry on.
God is here to help you.
Day 4: Read Isaiah 12. It's interesting to me that the lectionary reading excludes verse 1 - the one where God is angry. While we don't know why the Psalmist felt God was angry with him, we can hear his relief and joy as he experienced comfort, strength and salvation from his Lord God. When we find ourselves in need of help, sometimes we may feel that "the world" is against us or that we are victims of circumstance or even that God has abandoned us and yet as Christians we are challenged to trust, to not be afraid and to look for the one in our midst who is here to help us.
I will lead you home.
Day 5: Read Zephaniah 3:14–20. Kelly Fryer writes that "God is on a mission to bless the world and bring it back home - holy and whole." Not only that, but "God wants us to help". If that's true, we've got a big job ahead of us and the truth is we probably won't be around to find out how things turn out. We might not recognize any of the ripples of love left by our acts of kindness, but I guess that's not really the point. We are going to get discouraged, frustrated, angered and saddened by the state of the affairs in the world, but that will be no excuse not to continue following God's way. God designed us with a purpose to help one another and as we struggle to fulfill this purpose, take comfort that God is with us leading us home.