JOY for Today - First Sunday of Advent 2022

Amid the rush of Thanksgiving preparations, I find myself thinking about waiting. Waiting is hard. But the hope of JOY when waiting ends is what fuels us to persist. As we wash off our Thanksgiving platters and get out the Christmas boxes, let's fill our hearts and minds with thankfulness for His coming and in expectancy of His return!

A single white candle burns against a black background with pinecones surrounding. Text overlay reads "'...to save those who eagerly wat for him.' Hebrews 9:28 ESV; The First Sunday of Advent is the fourth Sunday before Christmas."
Advent photo (in background) by Dennis Skley via flickr. Shared with a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.

JOY for Today Offerings:

Did You Know:

  1. The Advent wreath is full of symbolism? The wreath consists of four candles (three purple and one pink) dispersed around the outside and a large, white candle in the middle. The candles around the outside represent hope (prophecy), preparation (Bethlehem), joy (shepherds), and love (angels) while the middle candle is the Christ candle. The colors of the candles hold meaning too: purple for repentance and royalty, pink for joy, and white for purity and light. The pink candle, then, is the candle representing JOY. (Learn Religions)
  2. Originally Advent was tied to baptisms in Spain and Gaul? At that time, new Christians would be baptized at the January feast of Epiphany - a celebration of Christ's divinity revealed to Gentiles through the Magi, His baptism, and the first miracle. But first, they waited in anticipation with 40 days of repentance, prayer, and fasting. (Christianity.com)
  3. Early Christians anticipated Jesus' second coming during Advent by remembering the anticipation of his first? While theologians remain divided on which meaning of advent was the initial focus, all early Christians came to spend this time in anticipation of His second coming. (Christianity.comEarlyChristians.org and The Gospel Coalition)
  4. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" evolved from a reverse acrostic? Eighth century monks would recite one stanza of the poem in the days leading up to Christmas. Each stanza began with "O" followed by a title of Christ. The acrostic spells out SARCORE which backward means "I shall be with you tomorrow." Each verse of the song's lyrics, translated by J. M. Neale, describe a title of God sequenced in the poem (Hymnary.org and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).
  5. Advent calendars began in Germany? To help countdown the days to Christmas, German families in the 1800's tallied down the days with chalk, hung up a series of pictures, lit new candles, or marked off each day on homemade calendars. In the early 1900's publishing companies and newspapers began printing advent calendars. Then, in the 1920's Gerhard Lang (commonly credited as "father" of Advent calendars) designed cardboard advent calendars with doors that opened and held a Biblical picture or verse.  (Crosswalk)

We'd Love to Know:

Which fact is new to you?


Wolfe Stew Connects

Advent - a time to wait with expectation for the coming of our Lord. 

This time of year, I imagine what it must have been like being an Israelite waiting for the Messiah to come and save them. The Old Testament seems fraught with waiting: for a flood to come, for a promised son to be born, for freedom from the Egyptians, for deliverance to the promised land, and for thousands of years they waited in anticipation of the promised Messiah's arrival.

And what about now? Are we living in expectation for another promise that is sure to come - His return? I wonder if it was harder waiting for Jesus' arrival then or if it is harder now. I don't think we anticipate His return with the same urgency today. I imagine many Christians live their life comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit, challenged by Jesus' teachings, and overwhelmed by the love of our Father. But living in a state of expectation, I don't know if that's me. Is it you? 

How might we learn to be more expectant people? A presenter on the Bible App shared an idea. He shared how his grandfather, his father, and now himself greet each morning by looking heavenward and triumphantly declaring, "Maybe today, Lord! Maybe today!" When I remember to do this, it helps me live out the day in expectancy. I can think of no greater JOY than eternal unification with our God and His church. Our lives should be lived in a state of expectancy. But waiting is hard, and maybe that's why we push expectancy to the side.

As we head into Advent, I encourage you to greet God each morning in expectancy of His return. Then, allow yourself to imagine what that day might be like. Let this Christmas season remind you of God's faithfulness - what He promised will be fulfilled. Look with expectancy toward His return. There is beauty in the waiting; it shows your faithfulness.

Maybe remembering what God has already done for us through His son Jesus will renew our desire to live expectant lives. If you want to remember with us, join us in our GROWTH focus next week where we will recall how Jesus conquered death to end November and start thinking about maintaining a persistent pursuit of God to begin December. Each day we will undergo short, but impactful, Bible based exercises to find renewed fervor. Let us persist in our faith, Conquerors!

For Reflection:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you anticipate Jesus' return on a day-to-day basis? How often do you think about it? What actionable change might you make today to live a more expectant life?


Bible Verses and Quotes 

Bible Verses

  • "So the Lord himself will give you this sign: A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [God Is With Us]." Isaiah 7:14 GW
  • "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 KJV
  • "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, are the smallest town in Judah. Your family is almost too small to count, but the 'Ruler of Israel' will come from you to rule for me. His beginnings are from ancient times, from long, long ago." Micah 5:2 ERV
  • "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean." Isaiah 11:10-11 NIV
  • "So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." Hebrews 9:28 ESV

Quotes

  • "God of hope, I look to you with an open heart and yearning spirit. During this Advent season, I will keep alert and awake, listening for your word and keeping to your precepts. My hope is in you." - Matthew Kelly 
  • "The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord." Henri Nouwen
  • "Advent: the time to listen for footsteps - you can't hear footsteps when you're running yourself." - Bill McKibben
  • "The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come." - Dietrick Bonhoeffer
  • "We celebrate the First Advent to whet our appetites for the Second. We long for the next coming." - Max Lucado

We'd Love to Know:

Which verse or quote awakens your spirit of Advent?

 

Activity Suggestions

These Advent activities inspire kindness, thoughtfulness, and explore the meaning of Christmas. 

Our Nephew's Suggestion:

Get out an Advent calendar!

If you would rather make one than buy one, here are a few ideas for you:

Our Suggestions: 

In our Holiday Spirit post, we invite you to:

"Would You Rather...?" Questions

For each day of Advent, would you rather...
  • Go to church or fast?
  • Memorize songs or Bible verses?
  • Get small gifts or do family activities?
These questions are unique to this post. If you would like three daily "Would You Rather..." questions for September, October, and November, download this Wolfe Stew PowerPoint. Get our December "Would You Rather..." questions here!

Family Challenge

Read and discuss a different O Antiphon each night. What is unique about this title of God? How does this role of God play out in our lives? As a family, think of a way to honor each of these titles of God. It could be an activity, song, movie, devotional, creation, prayer, etc.

We'd Love to Know:

What you do for Advent.



We’re excited to share one more day with you and wish you JOY for Today and HOPE for Tomorrow. Come back next week for...St. Nicholas Day!


Fighting the Good Fight with You,

Red stew bowl with steam rising from top. Wolfe Stew crawled on front.

Find even more JOY for Today in our monthly calendars, holiday, and seasonal posts.



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