Advent Hope in Challenging Times

This post by Peter Morden was originally published at Seventy Two

Psalm 25: 1-11

The Christopher Nolan film ‘Tenet’ has been one of the movies of 2020. I went to see it with my son in a socially distanced cinema experience before the second lockdown began. It’s full of great acting, with John David Washington especially good value. It’s fast paced with some breathtaking scenes. There’s just one problem: I didn’t understand any of it. It’s important when talking about a film to warn about possible spoilers. Let me assure you there’s no danger of that here: I have no clue as to what was going on. Central to the film is the concept of ‘time inversion’. I think that means people go backwards and forwards in time. This leads to scenes being repeated over and over in subtly different ways. At one point, the John David Washington character ends up in a fight to the death with himself. Or is it with someone who just looks like him? Who knows! The film left me confused and disorientated, with a sense of being swirled around, unable to get my bearings. ‘Big, bold and baffling’ said one review. For me that just about sums it up.

Actually, that’s a bit like life sometimes. Especially now, in these Covid-19 times. This year has been relentlessly difficult. In lockdown or semi-lockdown loneliness and fear have so often been compounded by confusion.  What are the different rules for different areas? Are we to stay in or go out or a bit of both? What tier are we in now and what does it mean? The questions are endless, the answers are hard to understand. Alongside this, there’s the loss of hope. We ‘hoped’ it would be over after the first wave, then by September, then by Christmas. But each time we’ve been disappointed, and as the book of Proverbs reminds us, ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick’. It’s a bit like my two hours at the cinema with Tenet. We can’t follow the plot, we don’t understand what’s going on, it’s like being swirled around…

What we need as we enter the season of Advent is a strong dose of real, biblical hope. Wonderfully, this is just the time in the church’s year that speaks of such hope. Psalm 25 is not often cited in connection with Advent but it deserves to be, for it speaks of finding bright hope in the midst of deep darkness. I encourage you to read it.

The Psalmist, David, does not find holding onto hope easy. You catch a sense of this in verse 2: ‘Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.’ This is an urgent plea. He essentially says, ‘Lord I trust in you but I’m struggling here. Don’t let me down.’ We may feel like this ourselves. Life is difficult and disorientating right now. We feel like hope has been repeatedly deferred. If this is us, the Psalm tells us we are not alone.

And, amazingly, the Psalmist not only stands with us but points the way forward. The urgent cry gives way to the confident affirmation of verse 3, ‘No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.’ How is such hope discovered and how is it maintained? By focusing not on hope itself, but on the character of God and his promises of the future.

As to character, he is faithful, gracious, forgiving and good. Search the Psalm for these powerful truths, all of which are fulfilled for us in Jesus who is God our Saviour (v 5). No wonder the Psalmist holds onto his hope in such a God.

And what about his promises? Verse 13 is the antidote to my confusing Tenet experience. For we are not just being swirled around in life, and we are certainly not going backwards and forwards in time. No, rather than being in a never-ending loop, history is heading somewhere. Those who live their lives for the living God, will ‘inherit the land’. This promise is ultimately fulfilled in the new heavens and the new earth. At advent we eagerly anticipate the return of Christ and the ushering in of our sure and certain future. I invite you to say with David, ‘In you, LORD my God, I put my trust’. Our God will not let us down.

What will this mean for us right here and now in these difficult days? Will it mean we won’t get sick or won’t get made redundant? Will it mean my family will definitely stay well and that I won’t have financial difficulties? Does it mean my business won’t fail? For the asylum seeker, will it mean my application will be upheld?

The answer to all those questions is ‘not necessarily’. Sometimes God will spare us sickness, for ourselves or our loved ones, and will answer our prayers in other ways too. One of the asylum seekers we work with as a church in Leeds has just been granted leave to remain quite unexpectedly, even though hope of a good outcome for his case seemed lost. Our hopes for tomorrow are not always deferred, for we have a prayer answering God.

Such deliverance does not always come though, and we should not be surprised at this.  We follow Jesus who entered a world of pain and then journeyed to the cross to win us the salvation of which this Psalm speaks. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But the Christian hope shows us he is someone who can be trusted and who will ultimately see us through. We have a future and a hope which is ‘steadfast and certain’. God clearly doesn’t mind too much about spoilers, for he has told us what is to come. The future is actually ‘big, bold and brilliant’. Hope in such a God and such a future makes everything seem different. Try it. If such hope truly grips us it will transform the way we live today.

 

The post Advent Hope in Challenging Times appeared first on Seventy Two.

Daily message – 30 Nov 2020

We didn’t ruin God’s plan; we are His plan, His eternal plan to love the undeserving, for the display of His glory alone.

— Ray Ortlund, “The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ”

Daily message – 29 Nov 2020

Of all plans of ensuring success, the most certain is Christ’s own – becoming a corn of wheat, falling into the ground and dying … “… if it dies it brings forth much fruit.

— Amy Carmichael, “Gold Cord”

Notices for 29 Nov 2020

This Sunday

Watch next week’s notices for news of the return of in-person services.

Join us in prayer for Ethiopia

Following Gill’s intercessions today, you might like to follow up with this link. (Click on the photo on the right for a 4 minute video to help you to pray for Ethiopia).

Advent is almost upon us…

… let Rhiannon and Rob help you get Christmas in focus.

Activities for children of all ages

LOTS is happening with the various children’s ministries…

  • Journey daily with Rhiannon as she gets ready for Christmas on the CBC Junior Church channel.
  • Christ Centred Christmas Bake off – Tuesday 22nd December: Start preparing now for the first CBC Bake off!!  Please confirm entry and get details here: Baking – Corsham Baptist Church. We need Judges!! (Help out, email Cathy D). Prizes to be won for the bake!!
  • A Christmas Trailthe Road to Bethlehem – is being organised by our lovely John & Nathalie P and Abi B. Get in touch if you’d like to help out.
  • A new Junior Church resource page has been created to pull all these things together. If you have an activity your little ones (pre-school and key-stage 1) have loved and that helps them love Jesus then share it with one of the Junior Church teachers and you can be a published artist, author, baker or musician! If it goes well we hope to start a new theme in the New Year.

So let’s get festive and celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ who remains sovereign. May these seasons be marked, not by being miserable but how we shine and continue to uphold the Lord our God.

Women’s Bible Study – this Monday!

Study notes are available for the November meeting which will be online only. Contact Kathy or Anne for sign-in details.

Souper Friday – in the news

Thanks to those who have come forward to help, though there is still room to get involved. Did you see our splash in the Gazette and Herald? Full details about this exciting and very relevant ministry can be found here.

Coming up…

Following the Government announcement this week we will be restarting limited in-person meetings from Wednesday. Youth (and their parents) should have details of this already, other ministries including services watch out for an update in next week’s notices.

Discover the Road to Bethlehem – nearer than you think!

If you have run out of Veggie Tales and just need to get out and run and maybe even stomp in puddles then read on.

Coming to the streets of Corsham this year is a very special adventure. Follow the clues, collect the stickers, arrive at Bethlehem.

On Saturday 19th December between the hours of 16:00-19:00. Start work on your costume today!

Collect your map and stickers from outside Corsham Baptist Church on Priory Street at 3pm on Monday 14th, Thursday 17th or on the day itself. Or download a map right now.

The small print

Families will have strict guidelines to follow which include Covid safety regulations and the route is designed so that you can start and end at any point therefore avoiding gatherings at any one area. 

Download instructions and safety advice here.

Carols with Compassion

Our mission partner, Compassion, has organised a carol service with TBN, why not arrange to watch with some friends?

Get all the details here, or the key summary follows:

  • Carols with Compassion airs on TBN on 2nd December 2020 at 7:30 pm
  • Carols with Compassion will be on Compassion’s Facebook page live on 6th December at 8:00 pm
  • A link to the video will be available for you from the 7th December 2020

Updated 15 Dec: Here is the full recording for you to catch up.

Daily message – 28 Nov 2020

Our salvation is thus divided between the death and resurrection of Christ. Sin and death were wiped out by the former and righteousness and life were restored by the latter. We must remember that when in Scripture Christ’s death alone is mentioned, everything to do with the resurrection is included. In the same way, when the resurrection alone is mentioned, everything to do with Christ’s death is included.

— John Calvin, “The Institutes of Christian Religion”

An early Christmas present from Church on the Green!

Our Online Advent Calendar, starting 1st December

Looking for something to encourage and build you up as we move into the Advent season? Starting on December 1st, Church on the Green are putting an online advent calendar on our website (https://churchonthegreen.online) including scripture and a short devotional video to bless you each day.
All welcome! For more information, watch the trailer below.

Daily message – 27 Nov 2020

Jesus was an initiator in relationships. He acted immediately to welcome whoever crossed his path.

— Gerald Sittser, “Love One Another”

Daily message – 26 Nov 2020

cover page showing image of lavender field

(quoting Jim Elliot): “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.

— Elisabeth Elliot, “Keep A Quiet Heart”