Daily Devotion 04 December 2020

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Romans 15: 4-6, 13 ‘Genuine Hope’

4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Over the years, I’ve written many sermons on ‘Advent’, and there are many themes suggested by this season – waiting, watchfulness, the second coming of Christ, judgement, among many others. But one that I keep coming back to is, I feel, the most important: ‘Hope’, because it underpins most of the readings suggested for the whole of the Advent season. It’s a crucial message for the times we’re all living in, and a wonderful approach to Christmas.

But let’s be honest: the Biblical message contains grand, poetic words, but do they always match our experiences? Isn’t it true that for some, hopes are not fulfilled? Some may well feel that the high hopes of childhood have ended up as unfinished symphonies. We can read Paul’s glowing words of optimism, but we should remember that there was another side to Paul’s experience. Throughout his life he hoped that he might be rid of what he called a “thorn in his flesh” – which was clearly a painful medical condition of some kind. But it wasn’t to be. And there is a poignant passage in that chapter in Romans when he writes to his friends there, “I hope to see you when I pass through Spain” (Romans 15:24). He got to Rome alright…but only as a prisoner!

One of the most uplifting pieces of music I’ve ever heard, let alone sung, is the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. We often forget that he had suffered a stroke and was virtually bankrupt. Yet this sublime piece of music was born, not in some great cathedral by someone at the height of his confidence – but in a dark, back-bedroom by a man who was broke, very ill, very depressed, and going blind. Handel’s experience (and Paul’s) tells us that disappointments and shattered dreams can never separate us from the God whose love for us is shown in the suffering of his Son on the cross.

At Advent, we’re meant to stay with the tension between our hopes and our fears, between our deep longings and our deep anxieties. Because that’s what Advent is for, that’s what it’s about. Advent holds us back from leaping straight into our Christmas festivities. Advent is about staying with the tensions – because that’s human! And how are we to understand the meaning of incarnation, of God being human, if we’re not being human ourselves? We have to stay with those tensions, so that the new thing we celebrate at Christmas may have a chance of being truly new for us, not a stale and sentimental cliché.


Loving God, forgive us when we lack faith and become over pre-occupied with our problems. In this season of Advent, help us to see hope that is born in the vulnerability of the cradle, and re-born on the cross. May we, as your people – your beloved children – carry this message into the dark places of our world, and to all who stretch out their hands to us. For Christ sake, Amen.

Reflection & Prayer © 2020 Barrie Tabraham. Image freely available online.
A printable version of this Daily Devotional can be downloaded from here
All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356

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