Welcome to Goshen College’s online devotionals for the 2011 Advent season! Our theme this year, taken from Mennonite Church USA worship resources, is “Awesome Deeds We Do Not Expect.” Every Monday a writer will introduce the sub-theme, whereas the following weekdays writers will reflect on a specific Scripture passage.
Advent 2011 bursts upon us with the impassioned cry of the prophet Isaiah: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence!” (Isa. 64:1). The prophet goes on to remember “awesome deeds that we did not expect” from the past and longs for God to show up again in such mighty ways.
Isaiah’s words reveal the heart of Advent: an in-between, paradoxical season, bordered on the one hand by memories of how God has appeared in the past and on the other hand by anticipation of God’s presence still in front of us. “Come, Lord Jesus” is a prayer that points both backward and forward: backward to the baby in the manger but also forward to the Lord of all entering our world. Yet God’s presence can’t be contained by our expectations.
One Saturday afternoon this past spring I was wallowing in a particular struggle. I lay on the couch depleted. Mira, our little daughter who had just turned three years old, was sitting in her childseat playing. Suddenly and out of nowhere, she looked up at me and said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.” Surprised, I asked Mira several times, “What did you say?” Each time she repeated, “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”
Then I asked her again several times, “What made you say that?” She did not respond. She did not need to because in that moment I recognized the Spirit’s presence bursting into that scene in the Yoder house that Saturday afternoon. I sat there quaking and in awe, not sure if I should be scared or at peace. Little did I know that our lives would take some dramatically surprising and seemingly miraculous turns over the next few weeks. I continued to reverently quake.
God may show up in disruptive and surprising ways but also in simple, familiar ways. The theme for Advent 1 is “Restore Us.” Over the unfolding weeks, my soul was restored as I contemplated, “Out of the mouth of babes…” During this Advent season we are invited to meditate on God’s sure coming – welcoming the unexpected but also treasuring and savoring the everyday revelations of God’s coming.
O God, surprise us with your awesome deeds and restore those parts of us which are depleted.