Advent: Hope In Uncertain Times

Dennis Swineford



Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. --Luke 21:28

Jesus prepares His disciples for a coming time of terror. There will be events that will fill human hearts with fear and dread. There will be signs in the heavens and upon the earth. And yet, He counsels us to stand tall as we go through these difficult times. For the disciple, difficulty is ultimately transitory. Jesus reminds us that our redemption is drawing near.

Advent is a curious time in the Church year. Our culture pushes us toward lighthearted celebration and extravagant indulgence from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. We are encouraged to pursue happiness through the accumulation of pleasant experiences and pretty things.

Advent pushes back. It encourages us to take a hard look at life’s hard realities. It reminds us that we often hold our hope in the midst of circumstances that seem hopeless. We have joy even though our hearts are weary from grief. We have confidence even though the future seems uncertain. We stand tall and lift up our heads because we know that our redemption is drawing near. Our redemption does not lay with any power within this world. Our redemption is rooted solely in the One who was and is and is to come.

On Saturday, December 1, I stood with the Samalenge family in a parking lot as we watched their family home in Cambridge Springs burn. On Sunday evening, I attended a beautiful Christmas cantata performed by a choir made up of Christians from five Cambridge Springs congregations. It was hosted by Pastor Samalenge’s congregation in their building. Barely ten feet from the destruction that had been the family home.

Pastor Joe gave a powerful testimony to God’s saving grace in the sparing of his family from the flames. He gave the ecumenical community a little Methodist history lesson. He reminded us that, as a small boy, John Wesley was rescued through the flames of a burning parsonage. He had been saved for a great purpose. Pastor Joe expressed his confidence that God had a great purpose for his family as well.

He made a marvelous statement. He said this event would not ruin Christmas for his family. Though they had lost many of their earthly possessions, they still have the assurance of their salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ words ring true in the midst of difficult times. We are able to stand up and stand tall because our redemption is always near.


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