Advent Longings

By Mark D. Roberts

November 30, 2021

A Note from Mark

Dear Life for Leaders Reader,

Before we get to today’s devotion, I’d like to share a short note with you.

Today is “Giving Tuesday.” Nine years ago, several businesses and non-profit organizations decided to encourage charitable giving and other good works on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Their idea caught on. Today, thousands of non-profits will be asking people to give to support their work. The De Pree Center is one of those organizations. (If you receive our “Faith. Work. Leadership.” newsletter, you may already have seen our De Pree Center request. Today, I’m adding a specific request to Life for Leaders readers.)

Before I ask for your help, I want to be very clear about a couple of things. First, it is an honor to serve you through Life for Leaders. I regularly thank the Lord for the gift of being able to study the Bible and share what God teaches me with you. Sometimes I’m amazed that this is a central part of my job. What a blessing!

Second, I want you to know that we at the De Pree Center are glad to be able to give away Life for Leaders without charging a subscription fee. That was true when I was the Executive Director, and it remains true now that Michaela O’Donnell is in charge. We often marvel at the fact that over 750,000 times each year, someone chooses to read Life for Leaders, either by opening the email or by visiting a page on our website. We love being able to offer Life for Leaders as a gift.

We’re able to do this, as you would imagine, because of the generosity of our financial supporters. The De Pree Center makes a modest amount of money from sales of resources and experiences, but mainly we depend on the financial support of people who believe in what we’re doing and want to invest in our work. We are glad to part of Fuller Seminary, but we do not receive financial support from the seminary. (By the way, we certainly encourage you to consider supporting Fuller. The seminary and its “FULLER NEXT” vision is amazing.)

So, today I’m asking you to consider supporting the De Pree Center financially. This could be a gift designated for Life for Leaders if that’s what you’d like to do. Or it could be a gift for the De Pree Center in general. Either would be wonderful. Click on this link if you’d like to support our work.

If you’d like to make a gift to the De Pree Center, please click here. Sometimes potential donors would like to speak with someone in leadership here. That’s great. Either Michaela or I would be glad to talk with you. Just email us to set up a time to talk: email Michaela; email Mark.

Thank you for allowing me to add this note to today’s devotion. And thank you, once again, for being one of our subscribers. I am so thankful for you and for the chance to serve you through Life for Leaders and the De Pree Center.

Now, I know you have a variety of worthy charitable possibilities. If this is not the year to support us, that’s fine. Let me encourage you to be generous in the way God is leading you. That’s the main thing. I trust that God will supply what we need to continue to serve him through Life for Leaders and other De Pree Center efforts. Honestly, I have been repeatedly amazed by God’s faithfulness and kindness to us over the past six and a half years!

Grace and Peace,

Mark Roberts

P.S. – If you want to support the De Pree Center’s mission, click here.


Scripture – Luke 1:5-7 (NRSV)

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.


Zechariah and Elizabeth were good, godly people. But God had not fulfilled their deep desire for a child. Their yearning invites us into the ethos and pathos of Advent. It helps us get in touch with our own longings, for ourselves, for others, and for our world.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.


After establishing the timeline for his narrative by mentioning King Herod, Luke introduces a Jewish priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, who was also from a priestly family (Luke 1:5). In terms of social status, Zechariah and Elizabeth were tops in their culture.

Except for one giant problem: they had no children. In a society that prized children and family, Zechariah and Elizabeth would have felt deep personal sadness over their inability to have children. But their situation was even more complicated and painful given the tendency of people in their day to associate children with divine blessing. After all, God had once promised that if the Israelites would keep his ordinances, he would “bless the fruit of [their] womb” such that there would be “neither sterility nor barrenness among you” (Deuteronomy 7:12-14). So, if Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless, what did this say about their personal integrity?

Yet, according to Luke, both Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Thus, their failure to have children was a conundrum for them and for those who knew this godly couple. If they were truly so righteous before God, why had God not blessed them with at least one child?

I can relate in some small way to what Zechariah and Elizabeth experienced. My wife and I had a hard time getting pregnant for the first time. We experienced years of painful longing, disappointment, and crying out to God. That was hard, but we did not live in a culture in which bearing and raising children was just about the most important thing in life. Nor did our community wonder about our righteousness because we had not been blessed with children. So, I can only imagine how hard it was for Zechariah and Elizabeth to be childless, especially given the fact that they were way beyond childbearing age (Luke 1:7).

When we attend to the personal and cultural situation of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we’re better able to enter into the ethos and pathos of Luke’s Gospel. It begins with unfulfilled longing, with perplexing questions about God’s faithfulness, and with a dramatic picture of a broken world. A couple that honored God had not received the blessing they wanted most from him. Their barrenness wasn’t just physical. Surely, they felt barren in their souls as well.

Zechariah and Elizabeth invite us into the ethos and pathos of Advent. In this season we get in touch with our longings, including those that are painfully unfulfilled. We wonder why God can be so confusing, why we have to wait so long for God’s blessing, and why that blessing sometimes never comes. We ache, not only for ourselves, but also for people in a world broken by sin and injustice. The situation of Zechariah and Elizabeth beckons us to get in touch with the pain and suffering of others. We join them in their heartfelt prayers: “Why, Lord? How long, Lord?”

In Advent, easy answers don’t satisfy. True answers don’t come quickly. So, we wait, looking to the Lord. And then we wait some more.


When have you experienced unfulfilled longing? What was (or is) that like for you?

When you look out at the world, what sort of brokenness and pain touches your heart?

As we begin the season of Advent, what are you longing for?


You may have been able to answer that last question easily and quickly. Or you may not really know that for which you are longing in this season of Advent. Set aside 15 minutes (at least) to consider your longings. Talk with God about these.


Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart. Amen.

First verse of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” by Charles Wesley. Public domain.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Waiting With Faith

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Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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