Day 23 — Monday, December 19, 2022

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4–7

Upon my 16th birthday, my parents drove me to the DMV to obtain my driver’s license. The nerve-wracking hours of navigating cones and roadways in that large 1980s Caprice Classic station wagon, the intense book study of rules/regulations… my eyes were on the prize of freedom. Until I heard the words, “You’ve failed your vision test.” How could this be? I did all that was asked. I completed all of the work! 

Soon to be revealed, was that my vision of the world was actually too small. A later visit to the eye doctor literally opened my eyes to a world beyond myself. The 1s or 2s, the 3s or 4s on the dials uncovered details around the exam room I was unaware of. The light filtering through my new contacts brought clarity to office woodgrains and wallpaper design to tree leaves and tulip petals outside the windowpane. Always there, but not experienced fully.

In a world of darkness, humanity longs for light. It longs for a Savior to be revealed and filter creation in a new light, making it whole… on earth as it is in heaven…

God’s gracious gift of hope and eternal life through the birth of Jesus brings us such transformation. This immeasurably more “regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” is lavishly poured upon us, refining and purifying us into his likeness. He siphons to the surface our brokenness, our blindness, in order for full healing to transcend. A merciful work no human alone could ever attain. 

The light has come! Filtering this world through his light and love, calling upon his Spirit daily, we are able to see his presence clearly in all of creation and circumstance… through every Advent candle and Christmas light, to sunrise, sunset, and rainbow. What amazing grace! I was blind but now I see!

Rajean Wolters is assistant to the dean for the arts and humanities 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.

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Day 22 — Sunday, December 18, 2022

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!

Zion hears and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O LORD.
For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

O you who love the LORD, hate evil!
He preserves the lives of his saints;
he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light is sown for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
Psalm 97

The woman in my watch interrupted a private conversation between my husband and me to complain: “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Apparently, she needed me to speak more slowly or use smaller words. It is no secret that the tech gods are listening to and recording almost everything we say and do, but to what end? Do they intend to judge us for crossing them, for not succumbing to their lordship? Well, good luck with that.

The reality is, if we harnessed all the power of all the rulers of this world and their minions — past, present, and future — they could not move a puff of vapor, not without God’s permission.

Today, when you choose whom you will worship, look up. Choose God: the Creator of life, who grieves the shedding of innocent blood; the Lord, before whom mountains melt like wax; the Judge who is justice, who is righteousness, who does not wrap depravity in virtue and call it good but delivers us from it; the King, whose foes — all of them — are consumed by fire; the Holy One, whose holiness demands, and whose mercy has provided, payment for sin; your gentle Father, who loves you because he loves you because he loves you. 

Jesus suffered the eternal horrors of God’s wrath against sin — our sin — because of his uncontainable love for every human being. The psalmist calls us today to hear and rejoice, to hate evil, and to praise his holy name. The Most High God guards our lives and delivers us from the grip of the wicked. He is exalted far above all other gods; false gods and those who worship them will be put to shame and come to nothing. So look up, and do not fear. God is on his throne, and heaven is on the horizon.

JoHannah Smith is project editor at the Van Raalte Institute 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.

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Day 21 — Saturday, December 17, 2022

On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the LORD in remembrance,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
The LORD has sworn by his right hand
and by his mighty arm:
“I will not again give your grain
to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink your wine
for which you have labored;
but those who garner it shall eat it
and praise the LORD,
and those who gather it shall drink it
in the courts of my sanctuary.”

Go through, go through the gates;
prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway;
clear it of stones;
lift up a signal over the peoples.
Behold, the LORD has proclaimed
to the end of the earth:
Say to the daughter of Zion,
“Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.”
And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the LORD;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.
Isaiah 62:6–12

We all want to be included. The drive for belonging is so strong that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a term we’ve added to our everyday language. As people post more and more of what they do on social media, it makes us stop and wonder. Why didn’t they invite me? They seem to have so many friends. Why don’t I? Look at all the fun they are having. Why is my life so hard? Am I missing out on the best life has to offer?

God’s people in Isaiah’s time wondered the same thing. Life was tough. Enemies threatened and surrounded them. Other nations had strength, power, and wealth, something the Israelites had at one time when God seemed to be on their side. When they looked at the other nations and saw what they were lacking, “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me’” Isaiah 49:14.

When life is hard, it’s easy to wonder if God has forgotten us. We can feel like we are missing out and start to question his goodness. God’s people, who felt abandoned by him, must have leaped for joy when He promised that they would be called the “Redeemed of the Lord,” “Sought Out,” and a “City Not Forsaken.”

This is the message of Christmas. Jesus came so that we could belong to him forever. He left heaven to enter our world and our human experience. As the sinless Son of God, he invites us to bring the burden of our sin and brokenness and lay it on him. He offers to take our sin and give us the gift of new life in exchange. 

He seeks after us and longs for us to come to Him. He doesn’t want anyone to miss out on the salvation He gives. At Christmas, as we give gifts, let’s not forget that he gives us the best gift, the gift of belonging to him.

Cheryl Wunderlich is the philanthropy writer for Hope College’s Office of Philanthropy and Engagement.

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.

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Day 20 — Friday, December 16, 2022

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Titus 2:11–14

While the Apostle Paul exhorts us toward the “blessed hope” of Jesus, a truthful look inward often reveals how little we really expect of God. Nothing throws that into relief quite like the holidays. Precisely because the coming of Christmas is all about joyful expectation, this “most wonderful” time of the year makes our struggle to hope in God more acute. In short, hope hurts more because this is a time of year we are supposed to be hoping and happy, and not hurting.  

No wonder self-sabotage at this time of year ramps up quickly. We easily eat or drink too much, we try to buy our way into our loved ones’ lives through gifts, we work hard to make up for all the days we worked too much, we give ourselves to bad relationships with people and things because it means, at least, relationship with something. Below the surface of our put-together exteriors, we know that our lives can be ungodly and out of control. But here, too, lie the deep wants, wishes, hopes, and needs of our hearts. We would do anything to have God meet us in these places. If God would bring us redemption here, we know it would be like being a kid on Christmas morning all over again. It might even be better. But we tend to believe this is too much to ask for, even at Christmas. Too much to hope for, even for God.

Friends, this is a lie told straight from the kingdom of darkness. The season of Advent stands against this lie. Hope is not impossible, but hope is humbling. Hope is vulnerable. God’s hope for all things in the universe comes to us as a baby. The original-edition Christmas morning wasn’t cozy, shiny, and well-wrapped. It was a smelly, dank, exhausted affair resulting from childbirth outside where animals were kept. Advent “trains” us toward this hope.

When the Church celebrates Advent year in and year out, we celebrate God journeying to meet us where we are. God means to rule our world, our lives, and our hearts, even in the gritty and tender places we keep hidden. Even in the places where we feel so hopeless that we can’t admit it to ourselves.

Dr. Andy McCoy is the director of the Center for Ministry Studies and an associate professor of ministry studies 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.

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Day 19 — Thursday, December 15, 2022

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:2–7

Upon the shoulder of the infant Jesus, dominion rests. Isaiah later declares, “your name and your memory are the desire of our souls” (26:8). And indeed His names and titles are wondrous: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. How far such glory seems from an impoverished birth in a Bethlehem cave. The newborn, sovereign king who is destined to rule all the nations in glory is surrounded by animals and laid in a wooden manger. Even more stark is the contrast of the full-grown Jesus dying on the cross, crowned by thorns, and abandoned by his apostles. 

And yet the road to glory is the way of the cross. Jesus conquered sin and suffering and death only by accepting them out of love for us. That way of the cross is foreshadowed in the wooden manger of Bethlehem. But by His dying He destroyed our death and by His rising He restored our life. That is the real hope and treasure and glory of Christmas. 

Several years ago a cousin of mine, only a few years older than myself, died suddenly from a long-standing medical issue and was buried just three days before Christmas. A very natural instinct would be to think that Christmas was ruined. But in a brief moment of inspiration, I thought, “Thank God it’s Christmas. Thank God that death is not the end of all things.” If we really think about it, for Christians it is the knowledge of the resurrection that has always been at the heart of Christmas hope.

Mild He lays His glory,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, 
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing:
“Glory to the newborn king!”

Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P., is chaplain of the Saint Benedict Institute, serving 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.

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Day 18 — Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18–25

God is present. God is with us.  

There is something grounding, hopeful, and beautiful about being fully present with one another. In a time when we all walk around with a computer that does everything in our pockets, it feels more than ever like a gift when someone offers you their attention and presence.

My youngest son, Wesley, recently turned 8 years old. And he seemingly wants nothing more than the presence of his mom or dad — when he’s scared, when he’s excited, when he’s practicing piano, when he is thinking aloud, when he’s drawing, when he’s reading. He just wants us to be with him. I’m grateful he asks for it, as his sweet requests are good reminders and make it easy to say yes and to put down my phone, or house project, or lingering Hope work. And he is often gifting us with his presence along the way.

The birth of Jesus is a sign of God’s presence. In verse 23, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophesied virgin birth that brings a son called Immanuel or “God with us.” God was and is with us. God was present in the lineage between Abraham, David, and Jesus that was detailed in verses 1–17. God was present with Mary’s and Joseph’s struggles and joys. God was present at the virgin conception and birth. God is present in the joyous moments between me and Wesley. God is present in the sorrows and injustices we each encounter. God makes himself present with humanity.  

We look back today to celebrate the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus at Christmas, we look ahead to fulfilled promises of God’s kingdom and justice, and we look to the present with gratitude that God is with us right now in this and each moment. May you know, welcome, and celebrate the presence of the Christ this season. And may you also gift that presence to one another.

Ryan White is the associate dean for academic advising and applied learning 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.

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Day 17 — Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:1–7

In John 8:12, Jesus says that he is the light of the world. This imagery makes me think about warm sunshine or the beam of a bright flashlight in a dark room. But because I am a nerdy scientist, I also like to ask myself, what is light? It turns out that light is made up of two different things: an electric field and a magnetic field, which move in a certain pattern around each other. It takes both the magnetic field and electric field together to have light.

This thought, even though it is nerdy, helps me to understand the nature of Jesus, as described in Romans 1:1–7. Jesus was both “descended from David according to the flesh” and was also “declared to be the Son of God.” Jesus is both human and divine. There cannot be Jesus if he does not have a body, but likewise there cannot be Jesus without the Spirit of God living inside of that human form. It took both his body and his Spirit combined to make the Savior of the world.

Even though it can be explained in simple terms, I still find myself amazed at this unlikely union. But as a scientist, I see many mysterious combinations in the world around me that I cannot fully understand. An electron acts both like a wave and like a particle. Water can exist as a solid, liquid, and gas. Perhaps God built these mysterious combinations into the world around us to help us recognize the Savior of the world.

Dr. Christopher Turlington is an assistant professor of chemistry 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.

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Day 16 — Monday, December 12, 2022

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!

O LORD God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
and our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!

But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
Let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19

Today it is so easy for us to walk our faith on the weekends. We wake with alarms, step into the embrace of warm showers, clothe ourselves in comfort we didn’t have to weave, are nourished by food prepared with the miracle of indoor ovens, and drive to our places of worship. It hasn’t always been so simple.   

On this day in my faith tradition, we remember a pivotal event that occurred nearly 500 years ago in Mexico. The Spanish had been busily carrying out their Conquest for over a decade and the native Mesoamericans were dying in such numbers from European diseases and war that they believed it was the end of the world. It is in this context, in 1531, that we meet St. Juan Diego, a humble Aztec man and new Christian. He arose every morning before dawn to walk 15 miles into Mexico City to attend Mass and faith formation classes. This man was hungry for the Lord in a real, gritty, walk-through-the-desert-in-the-dark kind of way.

In a series of remarkable encounters in December, he was visited by Mary, who urged him to build a church closer to his home so that more people could come to the Lord and learn about him. This new church made Jesus more accessible to more people, and in the end, this meeting brought millions of people to the faith. 

So today, on this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we remember that the path to a relationship with the Lord is often begun with early mornings, long journeys, and the courage to keep moving forward. Like the writer of today’s psalm, and all conquered peoples, we may sometimes feel lost, but we are strengthened in the knowledge during this season of preparation, that Light is coming.

Melissa Mulder is an assistant professor of Spanish instruction 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.

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Day 15 — Sunday, December 11, 2022

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.
Isaiah 7:10–16

Have you ever asked God for a sign? I have. I’ve asked for mile-markers on the journey (How long, O Lord, how long?), or a sign to help me make the right decision. I’ve asked for signs of answered prayer and signs of hope in hard times. I’ve asked for signs of God’s presence in circumstances that have left me wondering if God has walked off the job.

Scripture tells us that God seems to love to give signs to his people. God painted the sky with the moon and stars as a sign for seasons and days and years (Genesis 1:14); God placed a bow in the heavens as a sign of his covenant (Genesis 9:12); God worked signs in Egypt to free his people, and Jesus came performing signs and wonders so that we might come to believe and have life in his name (John 20:30–31). In this life of faith, maintaining our conviction of things not seen, we need signs (things seen) and are grateful when they come.

The prophet Isaiah went out to meet King Ahaz that day and comes to meet us this day with the giving of another sign. As it turns out, God has not walked off the job.

“Ask a sign of the Lord your God” (Isaiah 7:11). Go ahead, ask. When you descend to Sheol — into the moments of death and pain, darkness and hopelessness we all experience — ask. When you ascend to the heights, ask. Is God with me here, even here? A woman will conceive, a Son will be born. The Lord himself will give you a sign, Immanuel — God with us.  

O come, dear child of Mary, come,
God’s Word made flesh within our earthly home;
Love stir within the womb of night,
Revenge and hatred put to flight.
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Rev. Jennifer Ryden is the senior chaplain 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.

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Day 14 — Saturday, December 10, 2022

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,

‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Matthew 11:2–11

In today’s passage from Matthew, we read that the coming of John the Baptist is the fulfillment of prophecy. There are actually several prophecies that point to John. The first, referenced by Matthew, is from Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (3:1). Another is from Isaiah: “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (40:3).

A third prophecy actually comes from John’s father, Zechariah, who “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” about his own son: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:67, 76).

So, John is the prophesied messenger who prepares the way for Jesus’ first coming. He’s sort of a big deal. But where is the John who will prepare the way for Jesus’ second coming? Who is that messenger? The answer may be surprising: You are.

Like John, every Christian has been entrusted with a message: the gospel, the good news, which is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Just as John did, we who know Jesus point to him and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

If you are a Christian, this is your charge: Prepare ye the way of the Lord. We are God’s messengers now. 

This Advent, be a messenger who shares the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for he will come again.

Josh Bishop is the web content manager 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.

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