Devotional Series: Advent for the Children of God

Christmas Proves that God is on Your Side

God is on your side, not only in that God has saved you through Christ, but also in that God has called you to be on God’s own side, so to speak. The God who is at work mending and restoring the entire universe has chosen to use you in this effort. Your life, therefore, has extraordinary, indeed, eternal meaning. Moreover, God has also chosen to dwell within you through the Holy Spirit so that you might be reassured that you are God’s beloved child and so that you might be empowered to participate in God’s redeeming work. This is indeed wonderful news—news that we know to be true, in part, because of the reality of Christmas. 

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God Works in All Things With Us for Good

As God’s beloved children we get to share in the lavish benefits of God’s grace. But Romans 8:28 adds something more. We also get to share in God’s work in the world. This work isn’t just what we might call “religious” work. It isn’t only about church, evangelism, and mission. Rather, God is working with us in “all things” for good, including what we do in our daily jobs, in our parenting and grandparenting, in our cultural engagement, and in our citizenship.

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The Surprising Groaner

Romans 8 encourages us not to hold back in Advent as we observe and experience the “sufferings of this present time” (8:16). We are invited and emboldened to “groan” in prayer, knowing that God not only hears us, but also joins us in our groaning through the indwelling Spirit. Thus, our groaning draws us near to the heart of God. 

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Groaning with Hope

Advent helps us to hope even when we’re groaning with pain and sadness in this broken world. When we focus on what God will do in the future, and when we remember the faithfulness of God, then we are helped to have hope even in hard times. Christian hope does not expect that everything in this life will turn out as we wish it would. But our hope is confidence in God and God’s future. The same God who once came among us as a baby born in a stable will come again in victory and glory. And we will share in his glory. This is central to our celebration of Advent. 

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The Glory of the Children of God

In the seasons of Advent and Christmas, we rightly focus on God’s glory, especially the unimaginable glory of God revealed in the birth of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. But Romans 8, with its Advent emphasis on hope and waiting, stretches our imaginations even further. There will be a time, a time we often identify with the second advent of Christ, when we will be glorified with him (8:17). When this happens, we will assume our rightful place of authority over creation. Then, creation itself will be set free from its sin-induced futility and bondage. The created world and all within it will once again be free to flourish as God had intended from the beginning. 

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What Do We Mean by Glory?

Glory, in Scripture, is closely associated with authority (see, for example, Psalm 8). Consider ways in which God has given you authority and how you’re stewarding that gift. To be sure, our glory/authority as human beings has been tarnished by sin. We’re not yet experiencing the fullness of glory that is to come. But God does entrust us with care for this world, including its people and institutions. Moreover, God has chosen to put the very Spirit of God within us as a foretaste of the glory that is to come. As it says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, right now we are “being transformed . . . from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” Thus, God is already present in you, helping you to express faithfully the glory/authority you have already received.

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Advent and the Created World

When we consider the futile and decaying state of our world, including our own lives, we could easily fall into despair. But Romans 8 encourages us to join creation in waiting for the time when God mends what is broken. We wait “in hope,” which from a biblical point of view isn’t wishful thinking but rather confidence in God’s faithfulness to restore and redeem all things. Thus, when we hear of natural disasters, suffer with decay in our own bodies, or worry about the state of the natural world, we are invited into a deeper experience of Advent. 

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Suffering and Glory in Advent

In the season of Advent, we rekindle our hope for God’s future, a future that includes our sharing in Christ’s glory. Yet this season also invites us to recognize the reality of our present experience, which includes suffering. Acknowledging the suffering in our lives and in our world augments our hope for the age to come. It also opens our hearts to a deeper relationship with Christ, who suffers with us and calls us to share in the sufferings of others. 

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Advent for the Children of God

Chapter 8 in the New Testament book of Romans offers a different experience of the themes of Advent. It fuels our hope. It accentuates our waiting. It points to our future inheritance as children of God. Yet this chapter also invites us to live today in the Spirit-filled reality of the coming future.

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