At Richmont, we equip students to advance God’s work of healing, restoring and transforming the lives of individuals, churches and communities. To this end, we welcome the season of Advent as we eagerly look back at the birth of Christ.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” It is a season of preparation and expectation for the birth of God into the world.
To help in this preparation, we have compiled devotions from professors, staff members, students and alumni. For ten days leading up to Christmas, this devotional walks you through the ways the Messiah sustains and gives life.
Jesus Delights in Us
By Elesa Bentsen, School of Ministry Graduate
“The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NRSV)
As we prepare for Christmas and sing our favorite songs, reminding us of the joy of the season and encouraging us to rejoice, why do we so often feel weighed down by the demands of the holidays on top of the normal pressures of life? It is way too easy to focus on what remains to be done and to be distracted, trying to find the elusive perfect gift. Our life begins to feel like a hamster-wheel race with no end in sight and no winner. We wonder when we will finally get off and rest.
All the while that we are wearily racing around, God is in our midst, inviting us to join the celebration of his love for us and to remember we are not alone. He offers us the gift of presence, Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus. How often we stumble on our unworthiness to receive this gift of divine presence and fail to hear and experience the joyful sounds of Jesus delighting over us like a new bridegroom with gladness and singing. What would it be like to quit trying so hard to earn God’s approval and begin to relax into his loving arms? If we believe he gives us victory, could we relax in his strong arms instead of working so hard to save ourselves and make our lives work? What would it be like to enter his presence where there is fullness of joy and to discover that he is rejoicing over us… that he actually delights in us and enjoys us?
Jesus Comforts Us
By Dr. Mary Plisco, School of Counseling Assistant Professor
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone, and her sins are pardoned.” (Isaiah 40:1, 2, NLT)
I remember it so vividly during a period of significant sorrow. I was feeling overwhelmed with sadness and helplessness. I walked into church, and just the smell of it started to help me feel better. The peace and quiet of the building, the stained glass windows, and the wooden pews all invited me to sit and be still. But what was most comforting was the crucifix behind the altar – I could feel Jesus’s opening arms embrace me and provide solace. I could sense His reassurance that everything would be okay, that He knew my worries and my concerns, and that they would not go unheard. What a gift to know that God is a comforting God, the perfect listener who understands all that we feel and experience.
During this Advent season, we pray in thanksgiving for God’s presence and embrace, and we are reminded of our calling to provide comfort to all.
Jesus is God
By Dr. Keny Felix, School of Counseling Adjunct Professor
“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30, NIV)
To think that the God of the universe would step into history and take the form of a servant was unimaginable to many individuals Jesus encountered. Fast-forward 2000 years and questions about Jesus’ identity remain. Could he be the Messiah? Could he be the Christ?
The thought of Jesus being God was considered blasphemy as he walked the dusty, busy streets of Jerusalem. Yet his response when questioned was simply, “I and the Father are one.” It was a statement that almost prematurely cost him his life. In that very moment, his opponents picked up rocks to stone him, foreshadowing what was to come. How dare he? How could he make such a claim?
But how could he not? He was God, stepping into history. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:1,14, NIV). Yes, the very God who created the moon, the mountains, and humanity moved into the neighborhood.
But why didn’t they recognize him? Perhaps Jesus’ brief biography from the Apostle Paul can help us understand. Speaking of Jesus, he wrote: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8, NIV). Wow! So the Father through the Son in the form of a servant entered our world, dwelled among us, and eventually gave up his life on our behalf? Who else could we be waiting for? What greater demonstration of love could there be?
Thank you, Father.
What If Jesus Never Came?
A Preface by Dr. Larry Crabb, School of Counseling Adjunct Professor
Advent, the coming of Christ to this world, into the clutter that we created, is cause for both celebration and challenge. It is an opportunity to throw a party and a call to walk a narrow road.
Jesus once told would-be disciples to “count the cost” before committing themselves to follow Him. Apparently, he wanted resolute followers, not fickle fans. The thought occurs to me: Did Jesus count the cost required to reveal His Father’s love for self-centered rebels, before He became an unborn child in Mary’s womb knowing He was on His way to a miserable death?
Romanian pastor Josef Ton has written a provocative study of both the cost Jesus paid to win our eternal happiness and the cost his disciples must pay to make the Father’s love visible to blind prodigals. In his introduction, Ton writes, “… God always conquers by a love that is self-giving and self-sacrificing.” His book, Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven, is a deeply personal and exhaustive study of the cost-reward dynamic in the Christian life.
Had Jesus not been willing to count the cost of rejection, persecution and crucifixion, the trinity would have forever continued to live in perfect community without us. Our eternal existence would then have been defined by unbearable loneliness in a world without relationships. The famed Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky once wrote that hell is the suffering of being unable to love. Imagine living forever without being loved and never able to love.
Of course, Christ’s not coming to earth would have been unthinkable to our loving Lord; it was never an option. Divine love, the passion that is committed to another’s well-being at any cost to oneself, would do nothing less than provide us with a purposeful life of deeply rooted joy in this world and, in the next world, the happiness of perfect love received and given.
But hear Ton again: He speaks of “God’s method of sending His Lamb into the world, followed by many thousands of other lambs, to overcome the world by proclaiming the love of God and by dying for the sake of their proclamation.”
We must never think of our Lord’s advent as nothing more than something inexpressibly wonderful for us. It is that, but it is so much more. Christ’s cost-counting advent is an invitation to us, a call to make known the nature of divine love by relating to others with a commitment to their wellbeing at any cost to ourselves.
Can we do it? Of course. We are participants in the divine nature of suffering, self-sacrificing love (see 2 Peter 1: 4). May advent season draw us to become little Christs, little lambs who count the cost of following Jesus. The cost is great. The gain is greater–and lasts forever. Jesus counted the cost and paid it.
It’s my prayer, and the prayer of everyone who has written Richmont’s Advent meditations, that our thoughts about the stunning truth that Jesus did come will lighten you with hope and center you in the wonder of divine love received and the privilege of divine love given.