Advent 2020

Devotional

Seek me and live  


To be completely honest, in 2020 it’s felt more like the "downs and downs" at times. Just when it felt like the world was already a crazy place, another crisis came along that made it feel crazier. 


You can cry, you can laugh, you can do a praise dance – what a year! I’ve fallen in love with Amos 5:4: "This is what the Lord says to Israel: Seek me and live." It’s so simple but so profound. The prophet Amos is calling the people back to righteousness and justice, he’s calling them out on their hypocrisy, and weaved right the way through this chapter is the reminder to "seek me and live", "seek the Lord and live", "seek good, not evil, that you may live". In the chaos and also in the times of peace, "Seek me and live." 


That word ‘seek’ is ‘darash’ in Hebrew and it suggests, in this verse, that we ought to "search out by any method, specifically in worship and prayer". It’s active and intentional. Like going on a treasure hunt – your pupils are dilated, your ears perk up, your whole being is looking for what you want to find. The reward is getting that thing. The reward is holding what you wanted. 


Our salvation is by grace and grace alone, but I do believe that there are times when we need to actively seek him. To turn our attention to him, to cut out all the noise and distractions and set our gaze on him. Just like the beautiful hymn, ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus’:


‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus 


Look full in his wonderful face


And the things of earth will grow strangely dim


In the light of his glory and grace.’


(Excerpt from the hymn by Helen Howarth Lemmel)


I’m reminded of the people who were seeking him at his birth; the wise men and the shepherds looking for a Messiah – a king foretold by the angels and a star (Luke 2:8-15; Matthew 2:1-12). From the outside, this picture looks odd: wise men and shepherds seeking a child born in such humble settings in order to worship and honor him. Those with nobility and those without, those offering gold and those offering simply the praise of their lips. All seeking him. I’ve come to learn that often the things of God are counter-cultural and look nothing like how we’d expect them to. What would it look like for us to truly seek Him in this season? 


Advent is one of my favorite times of the year


As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we are reminded afresh of who he is and all that he stands for. The truth of the gospel. The power of his love and the certainty of the hope that he calls us to. It’s a time where we see nativity scenes everywhere and we sing carols and hymns unashamedly. It’s beautiful, but in all the festivities we can’t forget who he is – the Messiah that the shepherds and the wise men sought. And as we seek him right where we are, we encounter his way. 


"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them." (Luke 2:6-7)


The intentional entrance


His entrance into our world was so intentional. A king born in a manger. I always imagine this scenario to be super cute: the stable nicely lit, the hay neatly laid, scented candles, and a lovely glow in the atmosphere. The animals are all behaving and the floor is clean – it's a picture-perfect moment. 


But the reality of this verse would have been chaos. It would have been stressful for a young, first-time mom. Just imagine a small barn with animals, dirty water, all sorts of smells, poor lighting (if any at all) and noise. The floor would have been a mess with the excrement of the animals, and that smell would have filled the air. The fact that she laid him in the manger, a feeding trough, means that was the softest and safest place available in which to rest him. There was no other room for him. The hope of the world, the Christ child, was excluded. 


I really do believe his placement is meaningful. It’s no accident. Our king is no stranger to suffering, poverty, rejection or exclusion. He knows it all too well. For the Jewish people, this was their long-awaited Messiah, prophesied for generations. Right here, God’s promise had come. But he looked nothing like their expectations and so many missed it. 


Christ understands


In this scene of Christ’s birth, the same Christ that Isaiah 61 is all about, there is so much that speaks to me about a king who understands. He isn’t born into privilege, but into exclusion. Not with the haves, but with the have-nots. This is our Savior, the one who calls us to love and hope, without conditions and without exemption. 


He calls us to:


Love your neighbor.


Love your enemy.


Love your friend.


Love your hater.


Love the one you know.


Love the one you don’t.


Love those that love you.


Love those that despise you.


This is the Kingdom way.


This is the narrow way.


By Lisa Adjei, recruiter and trainer for Tearfund's volunteer speakers. She is also on the pastoral team at her church and has spent a few years as a lay preacher.