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November 29, 2020 Advent Devotional

On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin posting a series of daily devotions written by Jill Duffield, former editor of The Presbyterian Outlook. We'll also be sharing twice-weekly writings from "Starry Black Night: A Womanist Advent Devotional" published by Unbound, a journal of the Presbyterian Church (USA). We invite you to read, reflect, and pray, as we watch and wait for Christ to enter the world.

Scripture Reading: TIMOTHY 4:6-10

We use the word hope frequently, perhaps even flippantly. We hope not to get stuck in traffic or to get tickets to the game. The word hope gets thrown around and employed for wishes or desires. But the hope of Advent, the hope of our faith, goes much deeper than our likes and wants. The hope of Christianity entails nothing less than the redemption of the world — and this hope, while often difficult to maintain in the face of evil, is nonetheless certain. Paul instructs Timothy, his young apprentice in the faith, to train in godliness and focus on that which is true and worthy of full acceptance. He reminds Timothy, “For to this end we toil and strive because we have set our hope on the living God who is the Savior of all people, especially those who believe.” Our hope encompasses all of creation. Imagine that scale of expectation.

Our hope in this world of pandemic and war, poverty and disease, is set on the living God, the Savior of all people, who soon will become incarnate and dwell among us, who promises to return and set all things right. As we begin this liturgical year and look to the end of the calendar year, we do not take hope lightly. The year 2020 does not afford us the luxury of cheap hope. Too much has been lost, altered or upended for us to hope for anything less than redemption, salvation and God for and with us. If we have learned nothing else this year, we have learned the limits of our own power. We cannot save ourselves. Our finitude cannot be denied. Our need for divine strength and intervention feels obvious this Advent. is year when we sing “Come, Lord, Jesus” from behind masks while we are physically distant from one another, I suspect we will do so with palpable longing, with a yearning hope to know without question that God is indeed with us.

As we eagerly anticipate the inbreaking of God’s kingdom this Advent, hearing Paul’s words to Timothy – that young disciple attempting to shepherd a nascent flock living in the middle of a threatening context – could guide and encourage us, too. Focus on godliness. Remember the teachings of Jesus, the commandments of God. Emulate those people of faith who are admirable, wise and stalwart. Think about the good doctrine learned from the Word of God and faithful people. Ignore irreverent and silly myths. Hope in no one less than Jesus Christ and nothing short of the salvation of all people.

Prayer: Lord of all that is seen and unseen, we set our hope on you, our living God who comes to save, not condemn, the world. This year we feel battered and weary, ready for your inbreaking, longing for a sure awareness of your presence. We know you are true and worthy of full acceptance even on days we doubt your providence and wonder when you will set all things right. Help us to set our hope on you and live as people of hope who point to your light and enact your love in a world too often awash in hopelessness. Amen.

- Jill Duffield © 2020 Presbyterian Outlook

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