This afternoon’s post comes from Thomas Grosh IV. Thomas enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ, on campus as part of InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministry, in the culture at large, and in God’s creation. He blogs for the InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network, His personal blog is Groshlink
A Family “Advent”-ure
On the First Sunday of Advent at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ, a young couple expecting their first child lit the “Candle of Hope.” They read about, reflected upon, and prayed for hope through the lens of Romans 5:2b – 5.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. — Romans 5:2b – 5 (NIV).
The “Candle of Hope,” combined with the reading of Isaiah 2:1- 5, a sermon on Isaiah 6, and my recent consideration of Hebrews 11 – 12:3 during our local assembly’s celebration of 100 years of “Engaging Elizabethtown and the World with the Love of Jesus Christ,” brought to mind the perseverance of the Old Testament family (and families) of faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. … Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.– Hebrews 11:1, 12:1-3.*
The embracing of the Biblical story includes navigating (and following the model of) the messiness of Old Testament families, which come across in a striking manner when contrasted with the one generation covered by New Testament texts. Furthermore,despite what many desire to claim, the messiness which plagued Old Testament families, has not been lost in the New Testament people of God as they wrestle with the flesh, the devil, and the world.** One disturbing irony for me is that nothing brings this out more for me than holiday expectations when tied to those we are “closest to,” i.e., especially family.
As such, I’ve committed to place my holiday hopes, expectations, and interactions in Christ alone. And I’ve asked our family to do likewise. Please don’t get me wrong, my family (close and extended) does not cause me to suffer. They are a great blessing and as I’ve shared with many, it is so good to have returned home several years ago. Raising a developmentally delayed child, pressing on with my own health concerns, and facing the challenges of campus ministry has led us to journey/suffer together in a manner as to produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. To God be the glory!
The grace to journey/suffer together is beyond explanation, except that it is through the daily immersion in the Word, Spirit, Body of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. It is a response to the call of God upon our whole family (not just our “nuclear” family) and the local assembly/denomination into which our household has been grafted. A life of worship with “head, heart, and hands” (Dennis Hollinger).
So, when facing holiday challenges, I cannot help but acknowledge that although the people of God grow in Christ-likeness, we all (including myself and my family) fall short of perfection. And the higher the expectation, the more potential for anger, anxiety, despair, envy, extravagance (including gluttony), pride, sloth.
In response, join our family in praying for charity, confession/forgiveness, diligence, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, humility, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace, self-control, and temperance to fill our families (i.e., nuclear, extended, local congregation, ministry) this Advent. We rejoice that these gifts, fruits, and habits enable us to see and step into the reality that He is already near … longing to walk with us as we are salt, light, and leaven this Advent. What an “Advent”-ure! Can’t wait to share Scripture, story, highlights/concerns, and song around the dinner table each evening.
*Read Hebrews 11 to be reminded of some specific family scenarios.
**Take some time to dig into the characters highlighted in the genealogies of Jesus (Luke 3:23–38 and Matthew 1:1–17) and some of the major figures/episodes in Church history.