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Advent | 2022

Advent reason for hope

We invite you to join us this holiday as President Ellis, faculty, and alums share their thoughts on the Advent season.

We will add new content weekly, so scroll down to view the videos and the provided devotionals.

At the bottom of this page, you will find a featured song by an alum for the series. It is available as a gift to you! The music you hear in each of these videos is the instrumental version of the song.

Advent Week Two – Matt Hill

Advent – Week Two

“The Hope of the World” by Matthew Hill

Devotional Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10; Ps 72:1-7; Ps 18-19; Matthew 3:1-12; Romans 15:4-1

Have you ever wondered where hope would come from, only to find it in the most unlikely places? The idea that goodness can emerge from stressful situations seems palpably foreign. My wife and I were in a great place. We were finishing our education, ready to move to a new state and start the lives we had been trying to build for the last seven years. My seminary training and my wife’s graduate work were ending, and we had lofty plans: paying back student debt and eating more than beans and rice. So my face went a bit flush when I heard her say the heavy words: 

“Matt, I think I’m pregnant.” 

“No, you’re not,” I confidently assured her. “That’s impossible.” 

“Umm, yeah, I think I am.”

It’s not that we didn’t want kids someday; it was just that it wasn’t convenient timing for us right then—we weren’t looking for this life change. When we got home from the pharmacy, we immediately went to the bathroom, and my wife took the pregnancy test, and we waited, eyes fixed on the stick for what seemed like an eternity. The symbols of addition and subtraction never mattered as much to me as they did at this moment. Slowly, a plus sign emerged, and my wife said, “Matt, I’m pregnant!” 

“No, you’re not,” I confidently assured her again. “That’s impossible.”

“A plus means I’m pregnant, and there’s a large plus sign on the stick.”

“No, a plus sign means that you’re positively not pregnant,” I said this not as some terrible joke but rather out of my situational self-delusion. My wife, always the realist, calmly told me I was wrong while I fumbled at the box, trying to decode the mysterious hieroglyphs.

“It’s like I need the Enigma Machine to crack these instructions.” 

Sometimes I think that we Christians have been so convinced of a certain Scripture reading that we cannot accept the evidence before us. The Jewish community around the time of Christ’s birth was looking for something different than a homeless, penniless, escapee who clandestinely emigrated away from the Jewish homeland. The savior coming in this setting wasn’t part of their plan. It wasn’t convenient. 

God seems to work through and with different people in diverse ways. But one thing for sure is that when he does choose to move, it’s not typically on our timetable or under our direction. He does what he wants, and we’re lucky to be a small part of that movement. Our most significant task, especially during this Advent season, is to be open to the nimble moves of an uncontrollable God. 

Some questions to consider: How is God surprising you with hope like he did with our religious ancestors two thousand years ago? How can we both accept our circumstances while awaiting something new from our Divine Creator? And how can we play a role in this hopeful narrative and lean into the wonders of God? 

Advent Week One – President Ellis

Advent – Week One

“Keep Watch” by President Brent Ellis

Devotional Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Matthew 24:36-44; Roman 13:11-14 

Few mornings, if any, compare to Christmas morning. As a child, my earliest memories of Christmas mornings contained joy, exultation, and anticipation as my brothers, sister, and I roused each other to enter our family room together to discover what surprises awaited us under our Christmas tree. Would I receive the GI Joe with real hair or perhaps even our long-desired Telstar console? In all the anticipation, the worst part of our Christmas mornings would be when our parents tarried in preparation for our entrance and asked us to wait behind the hallway door leading to the joys of our hearts. We wanted to be as close to the door as possible, and none of us could contain our anxious energy. Soon I, or one of my siblings, would inadvertently bump, scrape, or push another sibling in the close quarters of the hallway, followed by immediate retaliation. The anticipation of presents was replaced by pushing, shoving, and defending the immutable right each had to stand exactly on the spot desired. Chaos ensued until my parents spoke, signaling the time for us to pass from the confined hallway and through the door to our perceived paradise.

Maybe you can relate to my childhood Christmas mornings, perhaps you can’t, but those childhood mornings remind me of a profound Christian truth. Romans 13:11-14 expresses this truth beautifully. Paul writes to the Christians living in Rome, wanting to remind them that soon, the hallway door separating our current, temporal reality will be opened, and God will call out to his children, welcoming them into eternal life, paradise, heaven. Paul leads into these verses with a statement that the law is summed up with a single rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, taken from Leviticus 19:18. He writes, “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). Within this context he moves into the reality that “the time has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

Christians, while we wait for Christ Jesus’s return, are stuck behind the metaphorical hallway door, waiting for God to finish his preparations and call us home. While we wait, Paul reminds us of how we should wait. In verses 13-14 of Romans 13, Paul encourages Christians to live in a manner reflective of the character of Jesus rather than the character of the world. He writes, “Let us behave decently, as in the day time, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh (or sin nature).” Paul knows that while we wait, we can easily be distracted from what we are waiting for. We can quickly become drawn to the trappings of the temporal world and, like my siblings and I, fight for things we know do not compare to what awaits us on the other side of the door. Paul tells us to wake up and recognize the temptations of the temporal world do not compare with what awaits us in heaven, our true hope. Rather than fighting for things that have no value or meaning, instead, as we wait, we should act like Christ, loving and serving others rather than striving for our own will.

Our featured original Christmas song, “Rejoice Emmanuel”, is written by alumni Jon Gerten.

Download it here: “Rejoice Emmanuel” by Jon Gerten or you can stream it now below:

Lyrics for “Rejoice Emmanuel”

Verse 1
Who would believe that Jesus our King
would come without beauty or majesty?
Who could have seen
the change He would bring
in that still soft cry?

Pre Chorus
It was a silent night until the Angels sang
Under a holy light and now we sing

Glory to God in the highest
Praise be to the Lord
Come and worship the newborn King
With His angels adore
Glory to God in the highest
Rejoice Emmanuel!

Verse 2
I will believe that You are the King
That You are true beauty and majesty
Now I can see the change is in me
You’ve shown me the light

Written, Recorded and Produced by Jon Gerten