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On Our Tiptoes - Advent 2012

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"Advent is the time where Christians stand on their tiptoes." -  #advent retweet

Everything is set and in place again.  Thanks to many who came in before worship and stayed after yesterday, the sanctuary is now prepared for this season of Advent - this season when we bring out our old Christmas ornaments and untangle the mess of lights, the season we unpack our most fundamental hopes and clear space enough to hear God's amazing promises all over again.  The purple liturgical cloths are hanging from table and pulpit.  The Advent candles stand in silent testimony to the four illusive and longed-for gifts:  hope, peace, joy, and love.  And the Christmas tree stands laden with our many family ornaments.

I know some of you have experience with Advent, but I also know that Advent is a fairly new or even foreign idea to many of you.  The quote above expresses what this season is all about succinctly and sufficiently.  It is the time of year where we lean forward - expectantly and longlingly, straining to get just a bit closer so we can hear again what God is whispering and even singing from the heavens.  Traditionally, it has included taken up certain practices again, practices that do not make us better or holier-than-thou people.  Simple practices like carving out a few extra minutes to read a few verses a day or simply sitting silently in the stillness of the early morning's darkness looking out a window waiting for the sun to rise.  We are merely trying to be attentive to God's presence, but we do so fully aware that so often in the stories of God's first entrance into this world were plain old ordinary moments when shepherds were just doing their jobs and Zechariah was just doing his duty.

And all the while we rekindle our hope.  We consider again God's promises to us and begin to lean into those promises as well.

Even though he was not writing about Advent, Lewis Smedes has a wonderful way of expressing what it means and looks like to live with hope.  I close with his own thoughts - offering them to you as one more voice to help usher you into this season:

"I said earlier that, as I have grown old, my feelings about God have tapered down to gratitude and hope.  Gratitude is the pleasure of hope come true.  Hope is the pain of gratitude postponed.  Gratitude comes easy, on its own steam, whenever we know that someone has given us a real gift.  Hope comes harder, sometimes with our backs against the wall, laden with doubts that what we hope for will ever come.  Gratitude always feels good, as close to joy as any feeling can get.  Hope can feel unbearable; when we passionately long for what we do not have and it is taking too long to come, we are restless as a farmer waiting for rain after an August without a drop ...

"I have in mind what the Bible calls a 'living hope,' the hope that waits for God to do what needs doing to make his world work right ... What I am hoping for is what the prophets called a new creation and the apostle Peter called a new heaven and earth where righteousness is at home, the very same world that so delighted God when it came fresh from his hands.  My hope goes for broke ...

"... I recall Jacques Ellul's saying that if your guts do not ache for what you say you hope for, you are not really hoping for it at all.  I meet his test; when I hope that God will come and fix his world, my guts ache like the guts of an old man with gallstones."  
- Lewis Smedes, My God and I:  A Spiritual Memoir

May we stand on our tiptoes with hope, and may our very guts ache for God to return and make all things new through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Wes


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