Throughout Advent I will be posting sections from my weekly devotions in SURVIVING THE BIBLE: A Devotional for the Church Year 2018. Find the rest of this week’s devotional and for each week throughout the 2018 Church Year in the book (now available everywhere).
Are We There Yet?
Texts In Brief
(My dog ate my Bible!)
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
Isaiah offers comforting words to the people of Israel, assuring them that though their lives have been hard, they won’t continue to be forever. Though pain and struggle are temporary, and even life doesn’t last, God’s word and enduring love do.
Psalm: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
The people on whose behalf the psalmist is writing have been struggling, it seems. And in offering a word of praise to God for the restoration of the fortunes of Jacob and the fulfillment of past promises, they are hoping to strengthen the faith of those who are dealing with hardship.
Second reading: 2 Peter 3:8-15a
The audience in this text has been waiting for what must feel like a long time. But the author reminds them that what seems like an eternity to them is hardly a blink of an eye to God. They’re cautioned to stay faithful and always be ready for God’s promised return.
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of Mark refers back to our text in Isaiah, in which the prophet notes that God will send a messenger ahead of the Messiah to prepare the way. Then the author notes that this promised way-maker is John the Baptist.
Heads Up (Connecting the text to our world)
Most of us have been on road trips with kids. I’ve gone on long ten- to twelve-hour drives in which we haven’t even gotten out of town before the inevitable questions come from the back seat…
“Are we there yet? How much longer?”
There’s really nothing more dispiriting than thinking you’re close to the end of a long journey – whether it’s a literal or metaphoric one – only to find out you’re not even halfway there. And yes, clock-obsession does add to the torture.
Not convinced of the relativity of our perception of time? Spend two hours watching your favorite movie, and then another two trying to hold it when you have to go to the bathroom. Talk about minutes seeming like years!
I used to go hiking with my dad, who made me carry all of my own gear for a multi-day hiking trip. By the end, I was usually wet (I was a klutz and always seemed to fall in the rivers we crossed), tired and sore. I, too, fell back into the “are we there yet?” mantra. But instead of letting it get to him, he responded with the same thing, every time.
“Just a little bit further.”
At the time, I thought he was sort of lying to me. It wasn’t just a little bit! I’d go a little bit and he’d say it again. It’s lots of little bits. But actually that was the point. If I thought of the rest of the journey in hours and miles, I’d have lost heart. But at any point when it seemed like I couldn’t go any more, he’d convince that certainly I could go just another 100 feet. So I’d do it and we’d celebrate the small victory. Then another, and another. And eventually all of the little bits yielded a completed journey.
It was all a matter of perspective. I could do it; I just didn’t know I could. But he knew, which was enough faith for both of us.