ADVENT | Mohawk Coffee House 2017 Devotional

Our desire at MoCo House is to be a blessing to our community. We pray every day that each of our customers, staff, & neighbors would know God’s uplifting presence & we hope you have been encouraged through our coffee house. Would you consider joining us this Advent season in a weekly devotional?

Advent is a special time of year leading up to Christmas. We’re invited to prepare our hearts for the coming of God. Each week we will be meditating on one of four major themes of the Christmas message: Hope, Peace, Joy, & Love. Through these we remember the time when Jesus came into the world, we celebrate the Spirit’s presence with us now & we look forward to the day when God will restore all things.

Hope

Hope is at the heart of Advent. At Christmas we celebrate how God came into the world to save us from sin & death through Jesus. Yet our world today continues to suffer from evil. We continue to hurt each other & disregard God. We continue to regularly experience the pain of loss. So while we believe in spiritual salvation, we still wait for God to heal the brokeness in our world.

2017 has been a year of suffering for many. The news shows our world full of violence, terrorism, oppression & disaster. Our own country suffered from two hurricanes, two more mass shootings, violent protests, numerous public scandals & fervent political division. There is much to grieve & many of us have felt angry or helpless. How can we make a change & work for good in the midst of so much awfulness? Where is God?

It is easy to despair. Yet in the midst of darkness, Advent reminds us that God’s light shines. When the world feels overwhelming God invites us to look beyond present troubles to eternity. Humanity has always faced suffering, our current challenges are nothing new. Yet our world also has much goodness: the love of family & friends, the words & actions of Godly people, the simple blessings of life (a beautiful day, a delicious meal, a fun game, an inspiring song). Through these God reveals Himself & moves us to hope.

Hope is not based in facts or something that can be proved. Hope comes through faith. Faith that the goodness we have experienced in this life comes from God. Trust in God’s promise that in the end his eternal goodness will prevail. This trust and faith can give us a sustaining hope in the face of our challenges.

Consider the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Would you join us in praying for Hope?
“Everlasting God, we are helpless before all the suffering in our world. We are overwhelmed by problems which seem to have no answer. Our lives are full of struggle and we are tired of trying, only to be discouraged again. We need your eternal light to break through the darkness of our everyday experience. We need you to place hope in our hearts. Hope that there is more to this world than the challenges we see. Faith that you are with us in the midst of suffering & trust that you are coming to set things right. We thank you for the blessings we have in this life; help us to see them as a promise of your goodness. You are God, and we put our hope in you. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Want to continue contemplating hope this week?
Read all of Isaiah 40, Psalm 33, or Romans 8 (especially verses 18-28).

PEACE

The New Testament teaches that Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy which hoped for a savior who would reestablish the nation of Israel as the chosen people of God & bring justice to the whole world. A few hundred years before Jesus, Isaiah proclaimed: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. For to us a child is born; to us a son is given & the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government & peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

Yet when Jesus came he did not rule as a king; he did not overthrow the oppressive Roman Empire; he did not restore Israel as a nation. In fact, Jesus was killed as political insurgent & the Jewish nation continued to suffer oppression until its destruction. Jesus did not usher in a new era of peace among the nations. So as we celebrate Jesus’ birth this Christmas, we have to ask: in what sense did Jesus fulfill prophecy?  Why celebrate him as the ‘Prince of Peace’ when there continues to be war & oppression today?

Scripture regularly sees humanity’s primary problem as a spiritual one. There is so much violence & evil in the world because humans have rebelled against our Creator.  We have chosen to follow destructive ways of spiritual darkness.  We war with one another because our hearts are at war with God’s spirit within us.  If there is to be peace on earth, we must first find peace with God. It is this peace that Jesus’ birth ushered in. Saint Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates his own love for us in this.” (Romans 5)

Jesus has shown us a peace that does not come through violence. Governments use war to end conflicts & force peace amongst their enemies, but true peace comes through the self-sacrifice of the powerful. When we have peace with God there is eternal life. We can find peace with one another even at the expense of our own life or well-being, because Christ’s resurrection overcomes death. After being reconciled to God, we are called to seek reconciliation with each other through sacrificial love. In Advent we reflect on all this. We pray for an end to war & for peace between the nations.  We work to end conflicts and oppression in our own community.

Would you join us in praying for Peace? “Lord God, you have promised peace but our world is full of violence. There is conflict around us & turmoil in our hearts.  Calm our anxiety that we may be still & know that you are God.  Help us to put our trust in you that we would know your peace in our innermost being.  By your Holy Spirit help us follow Christ’s example that we would work for your peace on earth.  We long for the day when our world will finally be reconciled with you & we pray that eternal peace would come soon, in Jesus name. Amen.”

Want to continue contemplating peace this week? Read all of Romans 5 & Ephesians 2 for a picture of our spiritual peace in Christ.  Or read Revelation 21:1-5 for a picture of the future peace we wait & pray for.

JOY

The winter solstice is this week. It’s the day with the least amount of sun & the longest night.  It may already feel like midnight when it’s only dinnertime, but the days are getting shorter still.  Yet we’re almost at the worst of it. We’re going to start seeing the dawn come sooner & the sun shine longer.  It is fitting that Christmas comes to us at just this time, when the year is at its darkest. When we are feeling the most depressed with little sun & plenty of cold, Christmas gives us cause to cheer. It reminds us that God’s light shines even when the world seems black. This week we reflect on the joy that Christmas brings. 

There is an obvious glee that comes with the Christmas season. We sing happy jingles, put up fancy decorations, wear ugly sweaters with pride, adorn our shops & houses with bright colors, eat delicious candy & food. The long winter nights don’t seem as dark with the glow of Christmas lights & friends & family gathering to share their love with gifts & laughter.  For the most part, all this is good in & of itself.  God delights when we enjoy His creation & celebrate together.  The joy we feel at the simple gifts of life can be a way of worshipping God & giving life to each other.

Yet there is a deeper joy at Christmastime too. We celebrate the birth of Jesus with the belief that through him God entered into the world in a new way. In ages past, the Bible shows God performing great deeds. God revealed himself to people in visions, he guided some by his Spirit & he even spoke to some with a voice.  Yet never had God physically walked on earth amongst humans. For Christians, this is what the birth of Jesus means: God taking on our flesh. The human & the divine mysteriously joining together in one body.

As humans, we were created to know God & find our happiness with him. Yet in this life we are separated from God.  We often have a hard time seeing him. The birth of Jesus brings joy because in it we see that God does not leave us in the dark of unknowing, but reveals himself to us. In Jesus we are given the light to see what God is like & to be confident that he is working for our good. Though Jesus is not with us now, we read about his life in the Bible & he promises to send his Spirit to those who turn to him. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is joy. As we come to know God more & more through Jesus, then all our other concerns in life will seem less of trouble in comparison. We will continue to be filled with joy, even when we face difficulties.

Would you join us in praying for Joy this season? “Lord God, we thank you for the many blessings you have given us in this life, all the things that bring us joy.  When the days are short and we feel the dark of long nights, help us remember the light you give us.  Help us to overcome our troubles and be glad for the life you have given us.  Above all, help us to find joy in your presence.  We thank you for revealing yourself to the world in Jesus and we pray that by His Spirit you would continue to show yourself to us. May the joy of that same spirit fill us with a life that blesses others, in Jesus name,  Amen.”

Want to continue contemplating Joy this week? Read Psalm 126, Isaiah 12, Matthew 1:18-24 & Luke 1:5-2:20

Love

Holding all our Advent themes together is love. The central message of Christmas is that God shows his love for us in the birth of Jesus. John, the disciple of Jesus, once wrote “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). 

The birth of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas is God’s way of telling the world that he has not given up on us. The Bible calls Jesus Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” He showed through his life, teaching, and eventual resurrection that God is working for the good of all people. That in the midst of all the difficulties of this life & all the evil in the world, God loves us & walks alongside us through it. It is this love that gives us hope for our present & our future.  In this love we find a peace & joy which can surpass any challenge.

Love is the greatest desire & need of the world. We all long for love. It is our first experience in life: as babies  we rely on the loving care & affection of parents to nurture us. Without love humans cannot live or grow or thrive. Throughout our lives we look to give & receive love from others; and this can motivate us more than anything else. Therefore the greatest gift that God can give us is the assurance of his love. A love that begins before us & lasts beyond us.  A love that never ceases & never fails. A love that knows our inner most being, even the things we are most ashamed or afraid of & affirms that we are valued beyond our wildest dreams. This love is the Christmas message. That God, the creator of us all, came to earth as a human to love us & provide for our spiritual needs. 

Once we know this love of God, we are called to share it. Christmas is a time when we share our love with others. We gather together with family & loved ones to share quality time together over rich meals.  We buy presents to show we care. In the spirit of Christmas, we often give to charities & look to provide for the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves. In the same scripture, John went on to say: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11-12). This is the blessing of Christmas, indeed the very meaning of life. To know God’s love & to share our love with others without hesitation or limit.

Would you join us in praying for Love this season? “Lord God, we are desperate to hear that we are loved. We long to share intimate affection & to know that we are cared for. You created us out of love & you came in your Son Jesus to assure us that you value us as much as the whole world. This Christmas remind us of this message. Help us to be confident in your love so that we would have no more fear or need, but be filled with your affection. Send your Spirit to move us to share your love with others.  Help us find ways to care for each other with your unmeasurable kindness & inexhaustible compassion, in Jesus name,  Amen.”

Want to continue contemplating Love this week? Read all of 1 John 4, John 3:16-17, Romans 8:31-39