Advent Reflection: Dec. 16, 2017

Seasonal Devotions

Scripture: Haggai 2:1–9  (Today’s Readings)

Advent, taken from the Latin word adventus, means “arrival” — that four-week period of waiting and preparation for Christmas and the Nativity of Jesus. And while we wait and prepare, we can take time to pause — to think about our spiritual journey.

The shortest book in the Old Testament is written by the prophet Haggai. Haggai prophesied after Cyrus, the king of Persia, had allowed thousands of Jews to return to Jerusalem and their temple, which had been lying in ruins. The Jews began to rebuild the temple. But because of opposition from neighbors and their own discouragement and indifference, the rebuilding was abandoned, and their spiritual vitality began to fade.

Haggai received messages from the Lord and exhorted the leaders and the people to renew their efforts to rebuild the house of the Lord. The Lord said, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” To Haggai, the temple also represented God’s dwelling place, His presence with His chosen people.

The Lord said, “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored.” And the Jews obeyed. Haggai reinvigorated and motivated them by reminding them that their drought and crop failures were caused by misplaced spiritual priorities (1:9–11).

God continues to encourage them with hopeful words, “ ‘Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work, for I am with you . . . . My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ ” He promises greater glory for His house, peace, and blessings. Ultimately, their crops were blessed, and they completed the work of rebuilding the temple; the second temple was completed in four years.

How does this apply to us? Advent is a timely call for spiritual renewal. In Haggai’s message, God focuses on what is eternally important: our attention to spiritual priorities, and our obedience to and relationship with God.

Prayer: Father God, during this blessed time of year, help us to recognize that incessant activity can be a distraction from the blessed miracle of Jesus’ birth. Help us to make time for quiet reflection; to give thought to our priorities of faith, hope, and love. In this spiritual journey, keep us mindful of our eternal hope and strengthen us with revival, renewal, and rededication.  Amen.

Contributed by Laura B. Vondas, Deacon

Read more Advent Reflections on the blog of the Shadyside Presbyterian Church website.

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Artwork: Detail of No Between © Jan L. Richardson. Inspired by Isaiah 64:1: “O that You would tear open the heavens and come down … .”