Have you ‘renewed’ anything recently? A couple of weeks ago I decided that my battered dining room table top was in need of a refinishing. After a few hours of sanding and applying new finish, it looks much better! The once dull tabletop shines again. Who doesn’t appreciate getting something old renewed? Whether it is a table top or a tattered relationship, it feels good to work at restoration.
Advent is a time for soul renewal! Life wears on us. The daily grind can dull our senses, rob us of joy, and bring on fatigue. 2020 has brought double portions of stress and uncertainty. Are you soul-weary; tired of the endless drone of statistics about the pandemic, feeling the weight of sadness for those who grieve, who have lost their livelihood, who are feeling the strain of isolation? I surely am! Join me in a faith response to God’s invitation to renewal of hope in the Lord as we remember the Savior who came to free us from sin and the promise that the King will come again to make all things new!
Jonah, the wayward prophet, ran from his calling, found himself weary, asleep in the ship that was carrying him away from God’s will. You know the story. A storm blew up that threatened to sink that that boat, taking the lives of the sailors. Jonah realized he was the person God was pursuing and told them to throw him overboard, which they did. From the belly of the ‘great fish’ that miraculously swallowed him, he repented.
His prayer includes these words of renewal. “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:6-9, NIV)
I love the interplay of loss and hope in those words. “I sank down … You brought my life up.” “My life was ebbing away … my prayer rose to You.” Do you need to pray those hopeful words today? Are you sinking under the weight of the world, in need of Someone to raise you up? Does it feel as though life itself is slipping way, with only faint whispers of prayer left over? God is our HOPE. Jonah’s pride and self-will had brought him down. To all appearance he was beyond renewal, past redemption.
“But God” … Oh, how I love that little phrase that is tucked into the 2nd chapter of Ephesians signaling renewal for those who will respond to the Spirit’s invitation to life. Remember it? “Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins.” (Ephesians 2:1, NLT) “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT)
As we make the journey of Advent, making our way to the celebrate of Christmas, let’s listen for His words of invitation to renewal. Come to the old story of “Immanuel, God with us.” Come simply. Soak it in. Let go of the bad, the sad, the doom, the gloom, and let the Light shine. Like Jonah, confess the goodness of the Lord … even if you are still ‘in the belly of the fish,’ so to speak. He anticipated God’s goodness, trusting that the time would come to sing again, to do the work of God. And why? Because “Salvation comes from the LORD.”
The word from the Word is that portion of Jonah’s prayer which I want to read again.
As I do, let this become your prayer, one that reaches for the renewal and restoration of our HOPE in the Lord.
“But you, O Lord my God, have snatched me from the yawning jaws of death!
When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and
I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” (Jonah 2:6-9, NLT)
Shine, Jesus, Shine
(a song of renewal!)
Lord the light of Your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness shining
Jesus Light of the world shine upon us
Set us free by the truth You now bring us
Shine on me shine on me
Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land
With the Father’s glory
Blaze Spirit blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow river flow
Flood the nations
With grace and mercy
Send forth Your word Lord
And let there be light
Lord I come to Your awesome presence
From the shadows into Your radiance
By the blood I may enter Your brightness
Search me try me consume all my darkness
Shine on me shine on me
As we gaze on Your kingly brightness
So our faces display Your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story
Shine on me shine on me
Graham Kendrick© 1987 Make Way Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055