November 29, 2023 • Life for Leaders
A Note from Mark
Dear Life for Leaders Reader,
You may have seen my intro note on Tuesday of this week asking you to consider supporting Life for Leaders and the De Pree Center financially. If you missed that note and would like to read it, you can find it here. Also, I would encourage you to read what Michaela, the De Pree Center’s executive director, wrote in her #GivingTuesday letter.
Whether you support this work financially or not, we are grateful to be able to serve you. Please pray for us and tell your friends about us!
Grace and Peace,
Scripture — Luke 2:3-7 (ESV)
And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Advent produces waiting. But not a listless wait with no anchor; we wait with root in the soul. We wait like a people who know that God is not done with his people. Like the practice of sabbath, or Habakkuk, or Paul, we pause and look back, look forward and rejoice and press forward.
By the time the events occurred in the New Testament, humanity should have embraced the paradoxical and often inexplicable character and action of God. Before the events of Genesis, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in ceaseless love and the absence of sin; yet they choose to create anyway. Joseph’s place is removed from the family because his brothers believe there is no place for a dreamer. And this is how God gets his chosen group of humanity into Egypt so that generations later he can snatch them out as a people—a people whom salvation will come through. This chosen group of people get to their land only to be exiled, which sets the course for their return and subsequent antagonism with Samaritans, Romans, tax collectors; and far-off ones (from the Israelite perspective) who will never come to themselves.
There are numerous stories peppered through God’s grand narrative of all kinds of unlikely people during unlikely experiences. Foreign spouses assuming the identity of the chosen people. Women assuming image-bearing responsibility at just the right time. Their least valued, conspicuous, ruddy red-headed children shouldering the weight of God’s anointing, and left-handed people doing anything good. Reluctant prophets spewed into foreign circumstances while attempting to walk the wrong way.
By the time the New Testament occurs, the lingering question of God’s people should be “what is God going to do next?” In our authentic pursuit of righteousness our dogma often gets in the way of our doctrine and our doctrine often removes the essential teaching that relationship is crucial to real belief. What is left is not the ceaseless wonder and awe so often and eloquently penned by the psalmist (who managed to include music) in questions like “what is humanity that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8). Instead there is the implicit and explicit declaration of what God can and cannot do. Who God will and will not use. Where God can and cannot be and who God does not care about.
Advent means “arrival” or “coming.” The anticipated arrival between the last prophet and Jesus’ arrival teaches us as we look toward another advent: the arrival of Jesus Christ in the clouds (Revelations 1:7). Advent produces waiting. But not a listless wait with no anchor; we wait with root in the soul. We wait like a people who know that God is not done with his people. Like the practice of sabbath, or Habakkuk, or Paul, we pause and look back, look forward and rejoice and press forward.
Waiting gives way to look for the providence of God. When I get the chance to ride on a train it is always eerie when an adjacent train is moving at the same speed. It almost feels like the train is not moving. Waiting. Stopping enlightens the reality that God is always intimately involved in our lives. One could have concluded that God cannot use Mary and Joseph; they are not even in Bethlehem. Take heart beloved; God has not counted you out either. Repeatedly throughout scripture God demonstrates love when the entire world appears to be headed toward doom. Just at the right time God can use floods, real estate, jealous brothers, diseased husbands, exile and even a Roman census to move creation where he wants it to be.
What kind of person are you when you have to wait on God?
What is the story of faithfulness that you can rely on in the quiet of waiting?
If you are waiting for something (or the next time you are waiting) take some time to observe all the things that are happening while you are waiting. Capture how people and things move. Note the spaces that were closed off to you. Record the seemingly insignificant mundane factors. When God brings the waiting to resolve, ask God to help you make sense of what he did.
I praise you, God, for making me wait and teaching me about your providence while I do. Teach me to long for your arrival in every moment while we all wait for your son’s return. Thank you that waiting will result in reward. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: O Come, All Ye Faithful.
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DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.