An Advent Confession

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

Isaiah 64:1-2

On the first Sunday of Advent, this Isaiah passage was the sermon Scripture at my church. And I confess that I was so disappointed. I was ready for other Isaiah verses like, “Comfort, O comfort my people,” or “A voice is wailing…prepare the way,” or “The Lord himself shall give you a sign…” I wanted something, “Christmassy.” This text, with its fire and boiling water and adversaries, seemed a slow start to getting me in the festive mood.

Over the past few weeks, I have been teaching a class on the four themes of Advent that we use in my church: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. For some, these themes are simply titles in a bulletin, candles on a wreath, chapters in a devotional, or calligraphy on a Hallmark Christmas card. For me, these are mighty and weighty words that carry what I so desperately need.

But, despite my deep faith, seminary education, and ministry roles, I think I may be doing Advent wrong. Every year I tell my husband that I don’t want to miss Advent – and every year, at this point in the season, I complain and lament that I have indeed missed it, and I vow to be better, slower, calmer, more attentive…next year.

As an introverted thinker, I yearn for time and space to…be. Then, I would be able to reflect and ponder and be renewed, so as to enter Christmastime with an inner knowledge, holy serenity, and spiritual contentment that would deem me sophisticated and mysterious! Alas, I am a wife and mother, working in multiple ministry positions, and the lead up to Christmas, both personally and professionally, tends to be kind of busy. And to date, no one has ever accused me of being sophisticated or mysterious.

Thankfully, in my teaching of others, I learn so much. These are a few of the notes from discussions in my class:


  • Hope is: Waiting. Anticipating. Expecting.
  • Memory and Hope are inseparable. But we are a forgetful people, and we can lose hope quickly. Memory → Gratitude →Hope
  • Hope is a choice. It can be a daily discipline to choose hope, despite circumstances.
  • Biblical hope is not optimism. It is bold and rooted and grounded. It can seem crazy! It is an act of faith.
  • Biblical hope is in a person – in God in Christ. Christ is the hope that ALL things will be transformed and redeemed, not just small and/or individual things, people, and circumstances.


  • Peace is: Wholeness. Completeness. Wellbeing.
  • Peace is not simply the absence of something – rather it is the presence of something. Of wellness/wholeness.
  • To work for peace is to work for restoration.
  • Peace/Shalom is complex and difficult. Many people (kings, governments, individuals) have tried and failed to establish peace.
  • Biblical peace is in a person – in God in Christ. Christ is the peace that brings unity (restoration) between creation and the creator – even in the midst of brokenness in the world. Until He comes again…


  • Joy is: Gladness. Delight. Happiness.
  • Joy is related to hope and peace. It likewise comes from an inner assurance.
  • Faith offers a unique perspective on joy. It is an attitude or posture God’s people adopt, not because of circumstances, but because of their faith in God and God’s faithfulness and promises.
  • Joy does not require the suppression of grief or pain, rather it exists alongside/despite it – but joy is stronger, eternal.
  • Biblical joy is in a person – in God in Christ. Christ is the “Good News of great joy” that is for all the people.


I didn’t take notes on love. We simply talked about how God is love. Christ is love. And how hope, peace, and joy are all only possible because Love came down.

Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, Love Divine,

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and Angels gave the sign.


Worship we the Godhead,

Love Incarnate, Love Divine,

Worship we our Jesus,

But wherewith for sacred sign?


Love shall be our token,

Love be yours and love be mine,

Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1885)


What I am reminded of this year, as I struggle yet again with finding the time and space to do (and not do) all of the things I implore and encourage for others, is that Advent and Christmas, from the very beginning, have never been calm and quiet. The carols and cards, the plays and pictures, don’t convey the magnitude and messiness of Christ’s coming. Hope, joy, peace, and love are to be found in the chaos – and I am missing it because I am looking to find it elsewhere, an elsewhere that doesn’t exist this side of heaven.

So, I am revisiting and reclaiming Isaiah 64. I am beyond grateful to know that this prophecy came to pass. God has torn open the heavens and come down. And God will again. There is nothing calm and quiet about it.

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