Advent Day 13: Hope Arrives

Back in 2013, I preached a December sermon series entitled “Hope Arrives.” In planning for the series, I asked our worship pastor—Kyle Wheeler—to write a song for this series. He did, and it’s one of our church’s most loved worship songs.


Hope Arrives by Kyle Wheeler…


Your grace extends to me

It’s for the hurting and unclean

And I know I’m both of these

But your grace won’t leave me that way


Your love does crazy things

It can’t be boxed or restrained

The proof of this is Calvary

You gave your life for all humanity


Hope arrives… For all mankind

This hope and this life… Is in you Christ


Your love is… Read More

Advent Day 12: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

The desire of all nations shall come—and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty. —Haggai 2.7

Charles Wesley, the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, was a leader in the Methodist movement and writer of more than 6,000 hymns (that’s a lot of hymns!).

In 1744, Charles Wesley was reflecting on Haggai 2.7 and thought about the orphans in the community around him. He contemplated the significance of the class divisions in Great Britain… and it was in this train of thought that he wrote “Come, Thou long expected Jesus.”

At first, it began as a published prayer that included these words words:

“Born Your people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now Your gracious kingdom bring. By Your own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone; by Your all sufficient merit, raise us to Your glorious throne. Amen.”

Wesley later adapted this prayer into a hymn in and published it in his “Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord” hymnal. The song not only reminds us of the significance of Advent and Christmas, but also encourages us to be looking for Christ’s return and reign.

Page CXVI is a Latifah Phillip’s band… they are known for rearranging and reworking hymns. I love her version of… Read More

Advent Day 11: Finding God In The Quiet

There is a time for everything. A time to be silent, and a time to break the silence. —Ecclesiastes 3.1, 7

I suspect we are addicted to filling all the spaces with noise. And when I say “we,” I mean us Charismatic Christians – including Pentecostals (who are the worst about this).

Please don’t think I’m attempting to throw someone else under the bus. If anything, I’m throwing myself under the bus. I am both a Charismatic and a Pentecostal (although I prefer the Charismatic label, and would like to add a couple descriptors like “gangsta” and “who loves Catholics”).

I am constantly working to fill all the spaces with noise – background music, words, videos, more words, and more music.

In a recent conversation about a Sunday service at our church, a friend said:

“This could be taken the wrong way, but my favorite part of the baby dedication was when you guys were all done saying stuff and just stood there for a while holding and looking at her.”

Funny how his favorite part was the one without any noise.

Maybe we need less cacophony and more opportunities to, as Depeche Mode put it, “Enjoy The Silence.”

I do think we need some holy… Read More

Advent Day 10: God Is Not Always Silent, And Man Is Not Always Blind

Advent reminds us to be awake, like the shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement. So often we hurry through life not really seeing and hearing… but perhaps we can see and hear.

In Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book “I Asked For Wonder,” he writes:

God is not always silent, and man is not always blind. In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal.

Each of us has at least once in his life experienced the momentous reality of God.

Each of us has once caught a glimpse of the… Read More

Advent Day 9: Grace Takes Us To Unexpected Places

*picture above: a statue of Mary in a church we visited this summer in Narni (an ancient hilltop village in the Umbrian region of Italy)

And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation forever shall call me blessed of God. —Luke 1.46-48

Mary was waiting – she was engaged to be married. Her whole life and future family was ahead, but not quite yet. Maybe she was excited. Probably she was a little scared. And then an angel visits her and makes an announcement. She questions. She wonders. And then she says yes.

As this shocking news of a God-laid-out-plan for her life sinks in, Mary’s response is to sing. We call this the Magnificat (my soul magnifies) or Mary’s song.

Luke 1.48 records, “He took notice of his lowly servant girl.” Another translation says “He set his gaze upon me.”

There’s something encouraging here… a reminder that God sees, God notices, God pays attention. There are times when I feel invisible, insignificant, small, or lowly in the eyes of the popular or powerful—and yet, God takes notice. He sets his gaze upon me.

Ultimately, Mary responded to God’s invitation with an emphatic… Read More

Advent Day 7: Advent Isn’t A Guilt Trip But It Is A Journey Into Compassion

*Pictured above: Kahal, a homeless man I met this past Spring. He’s worked a number of jobs—in kitchens, landscaping, Uber driver… but has recently fallen on hard times. He doesn’t have an address right now, or a computer, and this makes applying for jobs a challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Kahal. He was pleasant, intelligent, and kind. He was quick to smile and laugh.

Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed. —Dorothy Day

Advent, the season of anticipating and waiting and reflecting on the arrival of Christ, is a journey that leads us into compassion. We can’t think about Christ’s coming without remembering the humble, low, and socially unacceptable truths of this story…

—a young unmarried minority girl who is pregnant

—no friends or family to call on for help, no place to go for shelter

—needing to squat where it was allowed—in the animal barn of the local inn

How would this story sound if it had played out in 21st century America?

Perhaps Jesús would have been born in the early morning hours at a downtown homeless shelter.

At the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he spoke of the final judgment and those who would be… Read More

Advent Day 6: The Littleness of Christmas

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness. —Bob Hope

One of the reasons I love the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie is because of how it portrays unrealistic expectations and the spiraling descent into reality when those expectations are not met.

Clark Griswold dreams of hosting the perfect and bigger-than-life Christmas with his family… the enormous tree, so many lights on his house that the power plant has to activate its back-up power supply, the perfect Christmas meal (with Aunt Bethany giving the perfect blessing), and the ultimate big surprise: announcing his plans to use his Christmas bonus to put in a swimming pool.

Every big expectation he has of the perfect Christmas fails in one way or another and he begins to unravel. It’s pure… Read More

Advent Day 5: Deliver Me

Singer/songwriter Audrey Assad has a song that she wrote as a meditation and personal application of the twenty-third Psalm. The song is called I Shall Not Want and is on her 2013 album Fortunate Fall.

From the love of my own comfort

From the fear of having nothing

From a life of worldly passions

Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood

And from a need to be accepted

From the fear of being lonely

Deliver me O God

Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want

When I… Read More

Advent Day 4: Listen To The Art

Boy, I hurried… I hurried for a long time. I’m sorry I did. All the time you’re hurrying, you’re not really as aware as you should be. You’re trying to make things happen instead of just letting it happen. You follow me? —Bob Dylan

The first in the series of the “Love is…” statements found in 1 Corinthians 13 declares Love is patient.

Us Christians have a tendency to get all up in arms over the sins of those people - nameless, faceless, distant, categories of people… and yet, when it’s our son or daughter or sister or brother we manage to hold out hope, believing that anything is possible. We have patience for what we love.

No expectant parent rushes a pregnancy.

Patience says to your empty hands… Read More