Day 8 — Sunday, December 4, 2022

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Matthew 3:1–12

In this season of Advent, we are setting aside time to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ. What a great passage for us to work through to get into that mindset — clearly John the Baptist had been preparing! I love the picture that we get from Matthew, a very detail-oriented author who wanted us to know exactly what a haggard state John was in. I cannot help but admire his heart and dedication to the cause of Christ. He was so focused on preparing the way for the Lord that he had little concern for his own appearance.

I will be the last to advocate that we all run into the wilderness and dress in camel’s hair, but I think we should take a hard look at ourselves when juxtaposed against this picture of a man dedicated to the Advent of his Lord. Do we find ourselves so caught up in how we present ourselves that we don’t have any margin to reflect on who God has made us and what He has done? I certainly am guilty of that, and often am in no better standing than those well-put-together, knowledgeable Pharisees and Sadducees that John berates, who Jesus would later call “white-washed tombs.”

It’s significant to note that despite his unkempt appearance and extreme demeanor, “all the region about the Jordan were going out to him” — the truth of Christ will draw people in! We don’t have to try to make it stylish, or cool, or relevant. It has been and always will be the most relevant aspect of all our lives. We are simply called to reflect on that and live into that truth. 

This advent season, I pray that we all would take time, not to intentionally try to think less about ourselves, but to intentionally focus our hearts and minds on the truth of Christ and what He has done for us.

Dr. Zach Williams is an assistant professor of physics at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Day 7 — Saturday, December 3, 2022

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
Psalm 72:18–19

My childhood memories of Advent involve pink and purple candles in church that seemed to clash with the red and green decorations of Christmas. There were always countdowns that included small gifts and treats, ultimately leading up to Christmas morning and presents under the tree. I didn’t fully understand the meaning, the preparation, the anticipation of the birth of Jesus until I tried to explain it to my children. 

As adults, the stress of the holidays can easily overwhelm our calendars. It seems that we’re always making lists. Parties to attend. Food to prepare. Gifts to purchase. The true meaning of the birth of Christ is unintentionally lost in the diligence of December.

During this time of Advent, let’s take the time to recognize the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Great things for you and me. Declare with gratitude the many blessings in our everyday lives. Blessed be the LordBlessed be His glorious name forever. Exalt his name. Praise him. Worship him. Step away from the chaos of the season and take the time to remember the greatest gift of all. The God of Israel sent his Son to save us from our sins and bring us each eternal life. May the whole earth be filled with his glory!

Chanda Slenk is the director of communications for philanthropy and engagement at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Day 6 — Friday, December 2, 2022

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!

May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
Psalm 72:1–7

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I was in graduate school studying Northern European medieval art and architecture. Professor Morganstern, or “Mrs. M,” as her grad students called her, was a very proper art historian who intimidated me with her scholarly decorum, soaring intellect, and impossibly high expectations. But, she also sparked my imagination with her lyrical descriptions of Christian Romanesque and Gothic art.  

While I had read (and reread) the Bible as a young parochial-school student (thank you, nuns), I had never seen Scripture come to life as beautifully as in the cathedrals that Mrs. M taught. Using an old-school slide carousel, she projected images of architectural elements that wove a seamless visual connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. A true art history nerd, I fell head over heels for the stained glass of Chartres Cathedral.

Created in the 12th and 13th centuries, Chartres’ stained-glass windows were not just decoration. They were teaching devices, designed to inspire and educate the masses of medieval church-goers who were, for the most part, unable to read. Instead of using words, stained glass artists used illustrations to instruct visitors about the foundations of their Christian faith. As sunlight streamed in and animated the Biblical images, the windows were, in more than one way, “illuminating.”At Chartres, one of the loveliest stained glass “lessons” is the Tree of Jesse window, depicting the fulfillment of the promise made by Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” It’s easy to imagine travel-weary pilgrims standing mesmerized before the window, immersed in the iconography of Jesus’ lineage. Within this window, against the famous “Chartres blue” background, is a portrayal of King Solomon, son of David:

Photo by Dr. Stuart Whatling

Today’s psalm, Psalm 72, is called the “Psalm of Solomon.” It is a prayer for leadership that resonates deeply. The language of this psalm is familiar in a 21st-century way — righteousness, justice, deliverance, crushing the oppressor, the cause of the poor, and the children of the needy. These same concerns — these very same words, even — are invoked today as we debate the responsibilities of our leaders.

As I reflect on this psalm, I think back to the Tree of Jesse window, and think about the countless eyes that have found inspiration in Chartres’ vivid version of Jesus’ family tree. Generation after generation, children of God have been awed by this masterpiece. The unchanging nature of the human experience is amazing… yet frustrating, too. Generation after generation — in fact, as far back as we can go in our Christian genealogy — children of God have also been riddled with the same concerns and moved to speak the same prayers for their leaders. Sometimes, this feels discouraging. How is it that we still have not yet solved the problems of this broken world? Other times, it feels comforting. We are not alone. With God, we have the courage and the wisdom to lead through age-old challenges.

Let this Advent be a reminder that God’s Light always comes, an enduring sun for humankind. It comes into our lives like the morning sun streaming through the stained glass at Chartres, casting out the darkness and bringing a sense of awe and understanding.

Jennifer Fellinger is vice president for co-curricular programming and student formation at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Day 5 — Thursday, December 1, 2022

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples — of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:1–10

Do you remember a time you moved through a forest or under a tree and felt wonder? Your breath deepened. Your spirit lightened. You may have started humming…

“For the beauty of the earth, 
for the glory of the skies… 
For the wonder of each hour 
of the day and of the night, 
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light.”

Humans have had a special relationship with trees throughout history. The tree of life is a recurrent symbol. The Tree of Knowledge is at the root of Christianity and Judaism. 

An apple tree in England inspired a genius by failing to defy gravity. An elm tree in Massachusetts rallied a defiant group of colonists. An oak tree in Virginia sheltered the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. A pear tree in New York, crushed by falling towers, lives on as a symbol of resilience. 

Isaiah portrays resiliency through the prophetic image of a shoot sprouting from the stump of a seemingly dead tree. Similar language is used in the Book of Job:

“For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.”

By the time of Christ’s birth, the house of David, Jesse’s son, had been reduced to a stump. In this poverty we see Mary and Joseph, David’s descendent. But from this stump there came a branch. Light came, and the branch, watered by the Spirit and fulfilling God’s covenant, became a strong rod, worthy of ruling as King of Kings. 

The next time you feel cut down or cut off, find a forest. Observe trees growing and how their interconnectedness makes them healthier in diverse communities. Think about how they pass information on to new generations through the soil. Reflect on their roots, mirroring the networks in our own brains, as awe-inspiring evidence of a grand design. Look for the light that comes through the canopy to bring life. But most importantly, find sprouts among stumps and feel wonder.

Scott Travis is the executive director of Alumni Engagement at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Day 4 — Wednesday, November 30, 2022

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Matthew 24:36–44

As people who tend to run busy calendars and tight schedules, we don’t really like to be kept waiting. If you’ve waited for a repair person to make a service call at your home or if you’ve scheduled a furniture or appliance delivery, you know that you are typically provided with a window of time during which someone will arrive at your home, but you’re not given a precise time. These flexible, imprecise appointments can feel imposing, as we find it inconvenient to block off several hours in our calendars for dedicated waiting time. However, once the repair person or the delivery arrives, everything changes. The waiting time feels less like wasted time; the waiting time has been building toward something.

Maybe this is why we are really good at waiting for Christmas, but not so good at waiting for Christ’s second coming. We eagerly schedule our Advent events, adding family gatherings and elementary school programs and Christmas cookie exchanges. All of Advent builds toward December 25, and during Advent, our ordinary time becomes extraordinary time. It’s not just another family gathering; it’s our family Christmas party, and Christmas makes an ordinary family gathering into an extraordinary event. It’s not just elementary kids singing a few songs; Christmas makes the school program extraordinary.

One of Advent’s most precious lessons is learning how to anticipate the second coming of Christ. In anticipation, our ordinary time becomes extraordinary time. Just as the anticipation of the birth of Christ transforms our experience of time, so too should the anticipation of Christ’s return transform our ordinary, calendar-driven days into extraordinary waiting time. Every moment is not merely a moment, but every moment could be the moment: it’s the potential of each moment that makes time special.

With gratitude to God we practice our Advent waiting, training ourselves to live our ordinary moments in hopeful anticipation of Christ’s promised second coming.

Dr. Kristin VanEyk is an assistant professor of English at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Day 3 — Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Romans 13:11–14

Christmastime is a season of anticipation. As a kid, I anticipated the arrival of Christmas on account of the lights, the fun, and the presents. But I’ve come to realize that the Christmas season is a time of anticipation and preparation. Whether buying presents or observing Advent, I am making preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth. 

Christmas marks the first coming of the Savior, but believers now anticipate the Second Coming of the Savior. Paul reminds believers that our ultimate salvation, the return of Christ for his people, will happen soon. The Light of the world is coming again to make his home among us! And as we anticipate the Second Coming, we are to prepare for his return. During the Christmas season, we prepare to host friends and family. We clean house, bake, and decorate — all in anticipation of their arrival. Similarly, we prepare to welcome Christ through our loving obedience: we abandon the darkness of self-gratifying ways of living to love Christ. We love Christ because He first loved us, and it is only Christ’s love that edges out the allure of sin and darkness in our hearts. We love Christ — or as Paul puts it, we put him on — by obeying his commands.   

Our Decembers quickly become consumed with getting ready for Christmas Day. There’s hardly time for anything else in the flurry of those preparations! In the same way, loving Christ is all-consuming. Our lives are to be so oriented towards Christ’s Second Coming, that our hearts can only be filled with Christ’s love. This Christmas season, may our hearts be full of that love as we celebrate the Christ child and prepare for his Second Coming.

Emily McCarty is a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Day 2 — Monday, November 28, 2022

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem — built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
Psalm 122

The first word of Psalm 122 is a word of gladness. ‘I was glad,’ to be invited on the journey to God’s house, David sings. He’s grateful and delighted to go to the house of God. And, he’s glad for the journey up the hills with the tribes of the Lord. He’s grateful for what God is doing to hold it all together. And, he’s eager to pray for peace for his community and to seek the good of the kingdom of God. 

‘I was glad’ is also the first word of Advent. I wonder what our Advent journey might look like this year if we can join David, receiving with joy the beloved community of God. These days, we too often see a fractured Christian community with frustration rather than with delight and gratitude. This is not new. Truth be told, the tribes journeying together in Psalm 122 didn’t see eye to eye on all of the issues either. Throughout history, there have been disagreements, struggles, and contempt in every community. And yet, David leads the tribes — and us — by expressing gladness for the invitation to join a community on a journey to the house of the Lord. He leads with an expansive and beautiful vision for a community that only God holds together. The community is held together as they journey toward the dwelling place of God. This is our Advent journey.

May our prayers this advent join David’s. May God shape our hearts to see — and to love! — the beloved community journeying toward the house of the Lord. May we receive the invitation to join them with gratitude. And, may we pray for peace, seek the good of the kingdom of God, and journey together with joy.

Becky Starkenburg is the dean of students at Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Day 1 — Sunday, November 27, 2022

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the LORD.
Isaiah 2:2–5

Sometimes God’s promises seem, not just distant… they seem impossible.

Light is coming? Maybe, but I can’t see it.

A time of no more conflict? A time of no more disputes? A time when nation won’t take up sword against nation? Hard to believe all that when division here, just in our nation, seems near an all-time high.

The natural question to ask God in response to these promises is: How can this be?

That is precisely the question Mary posed to the angel Gabriel when he told her that she would give birth to the world’s Savior.

His answer: “The word of God never fails” (Luke 1:37). In other words, if God said it, it will happen. Just trust Him.

I’ve often thought, in my moments of doubt, how nice it would be to have that kind of assurance of a promise from God — directly from an angel. But after further reflection, I realize the angel was only with her for a few minutes. Then Gabriel left. And Mary was alone, trying to explain her pregnancy to everyone else. And I’m guessing no one believed her. Why would you? It’s not like this had ever happened before.

I wonder… faced with the doubt of others around her, did she ever start to doubt the promise herself? How could you not doubt if you were her? Because things quickly got complicated. Just as she is due to have the baby, a census gets called. So, she has to travel, which isn’t very pleasant. Then she gets there and there’s nowhere to stay. So, they get stuck in a barn just as she is going into labor.

I imagine her looking at the blood and water in the dirt and thinking, “If this baby is really from God, shouldn’t things be a little easier? Shouldn’t this whole thing be a little less of a train wreck?”

And then, all of a sudden some shepherds show up. They say angels appeared to them and told them this baby is indeed the savior of the world.

The word of God never fails.  

But sometimes, it sure looks like it might fail. 

Fast forward thirty-three years later. Mary finds herself at the foot of the cross with her son dead. Once again, she finds herself staring at blood and water on the ground, wondering, “Did I make the whole thing up? He was supposed to save the world. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.” 

And then, three days later…  The word of God never fails.

But, it sure looks like it’s going to fail. 

God has made promises over each of our lives. And He has made promises to us as a community — that we would be a beacon of hope for the world. Along the journey toward these promises being fulfilled, there will be many moments of doubt and discouragement. I find great comfort in the reality that often, just when things seem farthest away from victory, that’s precisely when God’s triumph is nearest. When things are at their darkest point, light is on the verge of breaking through.

Whatever you’re going through right now, as we begin the season of Advent, let’s remember that light is coming.

How do we know? Because God said so. And the word of God never fails.

Matthew Scogin is the president of Hope College.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Welcome — Advent 2022

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
John 1:9

Light has come into the world.
John 3:19

Welcome to Hope College’s second annual Advent devotional!

This year’s theme, Light Has Come, highlights something of the paradoxical nature of the Advent season. 

Advent is primarily a time of waiting. It’s a time of patient anticipation as the whole church looks forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ, to the day when he returns again. So, in this sense, the light has not come — not yet. It is still coming.

More immediately, it’s that time of the year when we wait for Christmas Day, December 25. If there are already presents under the tree, you mustn’t open them yet. Again, the light has not yet come (or at least, our annual celebration of it hasn’t arrived). 

It’s this second type of waiting, the waiting for Christmas Day, that makes Advent so peculiar: Every year, we wait to remember something that already happened in history: More than 2,000 years ago, all the children of the world woke up, rubbed the sleep from their eyes, and stumbled downstairs to find they had been given an undeserved, immeasurable gift — the gracious gift of Immanuel, God with us, born as a babe in Bethlehem.

Here is the Advent paradox: Even while we wait for the light to come, we also wait precisely because the light has come already. The light has come, the light is coming, and the light will come again. Come, Lord Jesus!

If you follow along with us, every day of Advent — beginning tomorrow, November 27 — you will find a new devotional reflection by a member of the Hope College faculty and staff. (If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe.) Each scripture passage is adapted from the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Advent.

Please join us for this Advent journey toward Christmas Day, as together we wait for the Light that has already come.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Subscribe to daily Advent emails

Hope College is pleased to announce its second annual Advent devotional, Light Has Come!

Beginning on November 27, 2022, faculty and staff from Hope will guide us on a devotional journey to Christmas Day. Every day of Advent, you will find a new meditation on a scripture passage adapted from the Revised Common Lectionary.

If you haven’t already subscribed to receive daily emails, please sign up below. (If you already subscribed in 2021, there’s no need to re-subscribe.)

Or, you can follow along online right here at the blog. And please, share this with your friends and anyone else who might be interested in joining us.

2022 Advent Devotional Signup


* indicates required