Day 13 — Friday, December 9, 2022

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
James 5:7–10

As I read James 5:7–10, I am reminded of my father. He was no prophet and suffered no religious persecution. However, I believe he suffered persecution for being a Mexican man in a predominantly white world. My father helped raise his eleven siblings and loved his seven children. He was a carpenter, architect, veteran, and the lead county cartographer for over 30 years. My father was a quiet man, revered by his colleagues, known as a perfectionist who “documented” everything, and a committed provider to the family. 

Even as a child, I knew that my dad “suffered.” He never shared what ailed him, nor will I ever understand why he behaved the way he did. It wasn’t until his passing, while sorting through his “documents,” that I caught a glimpse of his suffering. My mother had a sudden heart attack during his final years of employment. His entries mentioned getting the news and leaving work quickly, not saying a word to anyone. At this time, he also faced allegations of being a “thief,” drug addict, and an insubordinate “dog.” 

As I sorted through his documents, I was aghast. I could not believe any of the allegations. He shared none of his litigation process with any of his children. The investigations led nowhere, and his lawyer recommended settling out of court with his employer by taking early retirement. I remember he retired early to care for my mother in her final years. 

I pray I am never in my father’s shoes, but in my times of persecution, God gives me the strength to not grumble, establish my heart, and be patient — for the Light has come.

Dr. Anita Esquerra-Zwiers is an assistant professor of nursing 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 12 — Thursday, December 8, 2022

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1:46b–55

In her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeline L’Engle explores the idea that making art is a form of faith. In the first chapter, L’Engle suggests that creative ideas come to artists in the same way the angel Gabriel came to Mary — that the artist or writer can reject such invitations or respond with Mary’s yes.

Mary’s song of praise in the verses following the Annunciation emerged from that yes. Gabriel came to Mary with a calling that she could only comprehend in part — one that would alter her whole life and interrupt all her plans. Mary responded to that enormity and the unknown with faith over fear and with wonder. Her trust in the Lord was not a feeling but a choice. Soon after, she saw miracles visiting her cousin Elizabeth, and, caught up in awe, Mary expressed a song of praise laced with revelations of God’s character. Perhaps her song’s enumeration summarized years of witnessing God’s faithfulness. Perhaps she sang in a holy spontaneity, receiving the revelations herself as they poured from the gate of her lips. 

Regardless, Mary’s willingness to accept God’s invitation blossomed into a joy so powerful that she could only express it in song. L’Engle makes me wonder how many moments of our lives are tiny annunciations. Whether for a creative work or other venture, how often does God’s Spirit stir our hearts to partner with him? When the cry of our hearts is a faith-filled yes to those invitations — regardless of their scope, regardless of the anxiety we may feel at their cost — I suspect we will overflow in gratitude and praise, like Mary, and sing, “Our souls magnify the Lord.”

Michael Brooks is an adjunct 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.

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Day 11 — Wednesday, December 7, 2022

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:5–10

In college my favorite Bible verse was “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The flavor of those words, stuck in the middle of the Bible, was just the sort of bitter taste I needed as I chewed through what seemed like endless exams and attempts to be good enough.

Today’s verses bring a richer taste to the same concept. We try, we scheme, but in the end, God rules; God who can dissolve the earth with a breath. We do not control.

A decade after college, I spent weeks in a hospital bed. I should have been halfway through my pregnancy, and yet despite all medical attempts, the contractions came in unbidden waves. I wept to the ceiling. “God, take him, he’s yours, he’s always been yours,” I cried, and then silently asked if the “taking him” could please be in the “allow him to live” sort of way. The illusions of control had been stripped away.

What followed was a gift of peace and a response. It was not the response I wanted, not “he’ll be fine” or even “he’ll live.” Rather, it was the one I needed. “I am here.” God, the God who breaks the bow and shatters the spear, knew and loved my son. God was with us.

And that was enough.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

When you walk through the bone-dry places, when all illusions of control are removed, I pray that you feel this depth of peace.

Laura McMullen is the executive assistant to the provost 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 10 — Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 35

Streaming Isaiah 35

I remember when the television show 24 premiered twenty years ago. Many who read this may have never seen the show, but it provided a unique approach to an action-drama series. Every episode was meant to reflect an exact hour of real time (e.g., its first episode was titled “12:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.”). There were 24 episodes that add up to one full day, yet it took almost seven months to make it through that day! This required commitment and hope that the time spent would be worth the watch. 

In our streaming world, however, this may now be unimaginable. Many of us seem to enjoy the satisfaction of binging an entire season or at least controlling how fast or slow we will get to the ending. We only must endure what we want to endure. 

I wonder if those who first heard Isaiah 35 wished they could fast forward. How long would they wait? When would they go from the desert and the wilderness to gladness and life? From weak and anxious to steady and strong? 

During Advent, we are reminded that God is with us (Emmanuel)! Christ arrived, paid the price for our sins, and made all things new. Yet, we still strive against the darkness. Although our world, our institutions and we ourselves are not as broken as they could be… they are broken throughout. Yet there is cause for hope and joy in reading Isaiah 35. It makes clear that a land that is good, peaceful, and just will be prepared for us and that God is at work now (when we want to fast forward)… in our hearts, in our lives, and in our world. Peace, love, and goodness await those who will live in the land God has prepared for us. Be strong, do not fear; your God will come with vengeance (v.4).

Dr. Stacy Jackson is the Kenneth J. Weller ’48 Professor of Management 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 9 — Monday, December 5, 2022

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen — they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Isaiah 52:7–10

Imagine when you were little and all you wanted to do on Christmas morning was sprint down the stairs to go see what presents Santa had brought you overnight. You were still in your pajamas, didn’t even wait to eat breakfast or brush your teeth — just straight down the stairs to the magic and wonder that was found under the tree. You were bursting with joy. Pure joy. 

That is the feeling that the prophet Isaiah is portraying here. Pure joy as the messenger is running down the mountain to bring good news to the town. Pure joy as they proclaim peace and salvation! Pure joy as the watchmen shout to the people that the battle has been won. 

I wonder sometimes if we could bottle up that joy and just carry it with us on tough days. Carry it with us and spray it on our wrists like a good perfume. And I think we can… figuratively, of course, because joy is rooted in what God does. Joy can be found in these verses. The joy in these verses comes after much worry and anxiety — a battle had to be won, death and loss and stress were on the forefront of people’s minds. And the messengers brought the people pure joy with their news. 

Our God is a God of joy. Jesus came to earth. There was stress. There were tough days. A battle had to be won, death was inevitable. But joy, in the form of Jesus, had come. The angels called Jesus’ birth “good news of great joy” because even though there was death and sadness and hard times, Jesus came to bring joy. Pure joy. 

So next time you are facing a tough day, take out that little bottle of joy — in the form of a Bible verse, a worship song, a devotional — and spray it all over. I pray you feel pure joy in these coming weeks as we celebrate the good news that Jesus came to earth for us. 

Courtney Kust is the assistant athletic director of events and assistant women’s basketball coach 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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