Welcome to #ccdaAdvent.
In the midst of darkness, oppression, and marginalization, Christ entered the scene of the first Advent and paved the way for our communal wellbeing. This Advent season, we invite you to consider what wellbeing meant for the community of first Advent. What lessons may we draw from their context? Join the CCDA community over the next 4 weeks as we identify and learn what holistic wellbeing looks like from an exposition of Isaiah 40:29-31.
Each devotional will include a reflection, breath prayer, art, and worship. We pray that the reflections and prayers within these Advent devotionals bring renewed inspiration, anticipation, and hope in the Kingdom of God that has come and is to come. Amen.
Devotional by: Nilwona Nowlin, CCDA Writing Team
We live in a society that uses phrases like “Good things come to those who wait” while also offering premium upgrades that will move you to the front of the line. Whether waiting excitedly for a meal at a popular restaurant, or waiting anxiously for an update from the doctor, waiting is hard. Waiting is hard, and I don’t do it very well. Fortunately for me, waiting is a key theme throughout the Bible, so I have plenty of examples to learn from.
As we’ve read in the previous devotionals, our Isaiah text finds the Israelites waiting. We know that this text was written for the Israelites who were captured by the Babylonians and taken into exile. I don’t think any of them imagined that the exile would last for 70 years because it’s easier to wait for something when you think it will be a short wait. So, one day goes by, then a week, then a month, six months, a year . . . surely deliverance is coming soon! After 70 years, it would be a miracle if anyone was still waiting expectantly. At this point, all they have is a historical understanding of God as deliverer/promise keeper; and that’s why this text exists. To those exiled Israelites, this passage encourages them to keep waiting with anticipation. They can’t see it, but liberation is coming. They just have to hold on a little while longer.
The audience of the first Advent is on the other side of exile, so they have a more layered historical understanding of God as deliverer/promise keeper – from the exodus through exile. However, they’ve now been waiting for the Messiah for centuries; while they’re not in exile, they are under occupation. Not enslaved but not fully liberated. They, too, are waiting and hoping and becoming exhausted and weary in their waiting. If only they knew that the Messiah was arriving soon. They just have to hold on a little while longer.
Then there’s us. In 2022. We not only have a historical understanding of God as deliverer/promise keeper, we have lived experiences. The Messiah has come – but is still to come. So, we wait. I wait. For what? This is the fourth Sunday of Advent, which is often the Sunday we set aside to reflect on peace. The word peace comes from shalom in the Hebrew Scriptures and erene in the New Testament. This word means more than just the opposite of war, it is a sense of wholeness or rightness – that things are as God intended them to be in the beginning. Peace is wellbeing. But right now, my being isn’t well.
The week I’d set aside to finish writing this reflection brought me everything but peace. I experienced physical weariness as a chronic illness flared up, and I experienced emotional and spiritual weariness after the death of a friend. Then there was the run of the mill weariness from life in general, being Black in the U.S., and navigating a COVID reality as someone who is immunocompromised. As I reflected on it all, I felt as if I had been in an endless cycle of “just get through this week, and things will get better.” But I had been waiting and hoping for so long. It’s so tiring.
It is with that weariness that I sit with Isaiah 40:31. His words “those who wait for the Lord” remind me of David’s encouragement to wait for the Lord (Ps. 27:14). Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, “wait” is often translated as “hope.” It means that when I actively wait, when I wait with expectation, God responds by giving me renewed strength. That strength enables me to keep moving forward without fatigue. That strength helps me to hold on just a little while longer, knowing that my peace is on the other side. This is the same hope David expressed in Psalm 27:13. He knew that if he kept holding on, he would “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).
CCDA family, many of you are weary right now. This is a difficult time of the year for so many reasons. Weariness is real, but I encourage you to hold on just a little while longer. Keep actively waiting on God, your deliverer/promise keeper, to strengthen you. Be confident that you will experience wellbeing in the land of the living.
Do you want to learn “peaceful practices” – skills for addressing divides present in your congregation and community? Dive deeper with our workshop here: Reimagining Shalom: Peaceful Practices To Move Beyond Divided Politics