REST & HOPE
(Art by Karley RH)
REST & HOPE
Well hello, there my wonderful people!
I hope you all had a splendiferous Thanksgiving weekend, and if you didn't, there is hope my friends! And that's what this week's blog is all about. Those who know me know how much my faith means to me. It means so much that it's the most important part of my life. My walk with Jesus is honestly what keeps me going and has brought me more life and light than I could have ever gotten without him. He brought me into what real life is supposed to look like, even in this broken world. And because of my faith, I celebrate Advent every Christmas season.
For those who have maybe heard that word, but have no clue what that word actually means (like me for the first 20 years of my life), Advent is all about a season of anticipation. But the anticipation of what? I think we can all agree that this season is not always filled with the Christmassy feel-goods that our culture promises us. Hallmark Christmas magic can't fix the pain and suffering we feel and see all around us. And honestly, sometimes it feels like living this mundane, pain-cycled life can become just...too much to handle.
That's where I have found the message of Advent to be hope-filled. Now for some, this term brings a lot of hurt and baggage, because, let's be honest, the church hasn't been the best at representing Jesus. Face it, most of the folks that the church condemns and goes after are the very people that Jesus loved and had compassion on the most and therefore tells us to do the same. SO from that place and attitude of following the Biblical Jesus (and not American Evangelicalism) throughout my life, I find new hope in Advent. And what a coincidence, because the first week of Advent is all about Hope.
This world can be a stress-filled ball of puke most times (especially in the last 2-5 years). And I found myself asking the question a couple of years ago, "Wasn't Jesus coming into the world as the Christ supposed to fix all this?" That's actually exactly what his followers thought too. See, Israel had been through the wringer in the centuries leading up to Jesus' birth. They had brought most of it on themselves, but either way, it had been quite a rough time for them and they were struggling. The one thing that held so many of them together was hope in the Messiah (Christ) and that He would come and make everything right again. However, (spoiler alert) things didn't end up going exactly as they thought it would. To them, the Messiah was supposed to be this great military leader who would crush their oppressors and make all things new. And that did happen, just not in the way they were expecting.
See, they were expecting a physical change. This military coup would then establish a physical kingdom that they would be a part of ruling...a "one nation under God" kind of thing. But that's not what God had in mind. This time around, God was going after the spiritual side of things. God wasn't as concerned with government oppression as He was the heart of His people. God also didn't want "His people" to be an exclusive thing. So the act of the Son of God coming to earth in the form of a human, waking people up from their earthly hard-heartedness, dying the ultimate sacrifice (which fulfilled and canceled out the sacrificial system), and then literally conquering death by coming back to life, meant that spiritually the Kingdom of God had come. The barriers between God and people were broken down. God was welcoming all peoples of all nations to join with him in reclaiming not just the spiritual, but the physical world, by a radical love for humans, good stewardship of the earth, and a will to fight the spiritual evils that wish to remain in charge.
So here we are though, 2,000 years later, still in a place that I referred to as a stress-ball of puke. So what does that mean? Does it mean that God's plan failed? That Jesus' sacrifice didn't take? Are people just a lost cause? It's tempting to think so sometimes. But the truth is, the Kingdom of God is growing. Human rights are acknowledged and are being fought for like never before. Oppressive systems are being fought against and exposed (and unfortunately, pockets of the church and authority we thought we could trust are a part of that exposure). We are not done by any means. There's still a battle being fought in both spiritual and physical realms of reality.
But the good news is, God is with us. That's literally what "Emmanuel" means. God is here in the hurt and in the pain and is championing humanity as we continue to fight against the powers behind these corrupt systems that want so badly to rule our very existence. That's the hope we have. That's the hope we can cling to; that God is not going to leave us stranded and He is leading the fight against racism, bigotry, selfishness, and greed. And the best part is, He's inviting us to help Him, not just magically doing it for us. We are a people who have been rescued and redeemed. Now we are a people who fight evil by loving our enemies and showing them who God really is. That is the hope of Advent. And the anticipation is that one day this battle will actually be over. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). And we have hope that one-day racism, tyranny, greed, and all other sins that govern our world's systems would be conquered and made new.
And that not only brings me hope during this season, but that hope brings me rest. Rest in the fact that I'm not alone in this. That we aren't alone in this. That in our brokenness and pain we are surrounded by, God is with us and fighting alongside us. That rest is something I revel in. It reminds me that I have to take care of myself if I'm going to be helpful in this struggle. If I'm going to be able to focus on creating stories that wake people up to our reality and show them what love really means and who the enemy actually is, then I'm going to need to have a real hope that brings real rest. And that rest is something that I'm learning to embrace wholeheartedly.
Until next time.
Grace & Peace,