November 30, 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.
While we are waiting and—often—creating stories of doom for ourselves or for others God has repeatedly demonstrated that if we would just wait, God’s power is perfect because we are weak.
Last time we saw how Advent requires waiting but that waiting shows the providence of God. When we wait, most of us have had thoughts that are not the ideal conclusions we hope for. The owner waiting on the results of a partnership could conclude it will not work. The student waiting on entry exam results replays every question, second-guessing her answers. The offender waits to know they are forgiven anticipating revenge. While we wait, we must have spiritual roots. Whether the whole world recognizes the doom when God’s chosen are looking for Messiah, the story does not seem to line up with the anticipated results.
The Messiah does not come with pomp and circumstance. He does not come immediately annihilating the dark spiritual world or pummeling the Roman oppressor to the Jews. He is not born in a spectacular or renowned city. Everything about the kingdom and the king’s arrival is muted and inconspicuous. A young woman and man trying to make sense of conversations with angels, a virgin birth, and after a ninety-mile walk there was no place to lay their head.
How do you get redemption from this kind of start? Advent requires waiting and, in that pause, we learn of God’s providence but also his power. While we are waiting and—often—creating stories of doom for ourselves or for others God has repeatedly demonstrated that if we would just wait God’s power is perfect because we are weak. In this feeding trough lays the son of God forcing us to repent; to change our minds about how any story has to unfold. Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes for us what could be for our Advent if we would just wait:
“…And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”
We cannot avoid trouble and we ought not be surprised when others experience trouble either as though something strange has happened to them. We do not author stories of doom for others or for ourselves when the Savior of the world’s Incarnation began in a feeding trough. Gospel believers don’t wallow in the vanity of misery; they know the story ends in power.
What are the lessons you can learn from Mary and Joseph in waiting?
What habits in waiting can be transformative in your life?
Reflect on the stories you’ve created for yourself or others in troublesome circumstances. Compare what you create to what God shows us through Scripture of what God can do in trouble.
God, when we are feeble in our own trouble and presumptive in others’ trouble, remind us who is the Lord of the better story. You know what is better and you’re stronger than our worst conclusions. Teach us to wait well and to be rooted in hope. 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: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.
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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.