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Advent Week Five

Advent 2021 | First United Methodist Church of Rockwall

The Weary World Rejoices

Week Five, December 24, 2021 — A Thrill of Hope, Rev. Joe Pool

Foundational Scripture: Luke 2:1-20 

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ 

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. – Luke 2:1-20 

Advent Reflection:

Christmas Eve brings to our consciousness a flood of memories and images — some painful, some joyful. We have fortified our faith this Advent season through our study that indeed — the weary world does rejoice in the certainty and possibility of God coming to us in the most unexpected of ways — a child. Christmas Eve opens the door to possibility in all areas of our lives — even in the darkest moments. Some of us await death or birth or news or arrivals or reunions or surprises or another lonely night. Even then, we rejoice that in this one night, even if for a moment, it all came together. Hope. The thrill of hope — that life can be new, different, fulfilling, even joyful!

Our hymns of praise to God this season are holy expressions reserved for but a few weeks a year. What a shame! Each hymn carries the angels’ joyful reminder (Luke 2:13-14) of hope. In Phillip Brooks 1868 hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” I am reminded again that even in the weariness of our human existence — we are called to be a part of God with us in Jesus the Christ.

“Yet in the dark street shineth the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

The everlasting light of Christ has “met” (embraced, fulfilled, completed) our hopes and conquered our fears even in the darkest of moments.

We join the angels when we sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” and “Joy to the World” and our voices echo in the weariness of our world — Christ has come! Everything changes. We change. We are embraced and claimed by the inescapable hope in Jesus the Christ. “Christ our Savior is born, Christ our Savior is born.”

For Further Reflection:

  1. The glory of the Lord can sometimes be a terrifying thing. We’re not sure if we deserve God’s love and blessings and we can become overwhelmed by our need for control or understanding. But, in this week’s scripture we hear God’s voice telling us to not be afraid of His goodness and mercy in the gift of his son, Jesus. In fact, many times through scripture we hear both God and Jesus speak on being unafraid. What do we lose out on when we respond out of fear? 

2. What hymn helps you tap into that “thrill of hope” that comes with the Advent season? 

3. What hymn brings up a special memory for you from Christmas’ past? 

4. “Yet in the dark street shineth the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Discuss this line of the hymn. What does it mean to you that the hopes and fears of all the years are met in God tonight? 

5. Sometimes after we’ve had a tough year finding joy in the Christmas season can seem impossible. Think about and share ways you can connect to joy. Remember that it’s ok to create a new tradition or alter plans if you need something that looks a little different this year. What traditions help you lean into joy? What new or different things might you try?  

Spiritual Practice:

Sit in reflection about 2021. What moments brought you to your knees? What moments offered hope to you? As you look back on all that was lost and gained throughout this year, what hope do you have for 2022? Set a word or intention for your upcoming year. Write it out and put it somewhere you can see it. When our focus is on hope and joy we can more intentionally make choices that help us move down that path. Each of us, no matter our circumstance, has an opportunity to live into the Hope that Jesus offers us, every single day. How will you lean into Hope in 2022? 

Family Advent Moment:

As we wrap up our Advent Devotional, we encourage you and your family to take a moment and recognize all the ways you’ve served others this season. Maybe you got a child a present from our Angel Tree. Maybe you made Scripture cards for One Man’s Treasure. Maybe you donated money to support Kids Against Hunger. Maybe you reconnected with family and friends and invited them to Christmas Eve services. As you reflect upon all these forms of service, ask your family these questions: What was your favorite service opportunity? Why did you like it? What do you hope we can do to serve others next year? And remember, all of these acts of service are a reflection of God’s love for us, a love made real on the night when Jesus was born as our Savior.