Anchored in Faith

Advent reflection for Wednesday 2nd December 2020

‘Who has believed what we have heard?’                                                                    

(Isaiah 53:1, NRSV)

When Peter wrote the dispersed church across Asia Minor, he commended them for their faith and their trust in Jesus:

Although you have not seen him, you him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls

1 Peter 1:8-9, NRSV

We, too, have learned to trust and follow the One Whom we do not see – One Whom most of us have never seen.

Of course, there is a sense in which we ‘see’ Christ in His Body – the Church. We ‘see’ Him with eyes of faith in the Eucharist as we remember His death for us. We ‘see’ Him in worship as we focus and reflect. Perhaps some of us have also seen visions of Him? By and large though, we follow Him in faith. We believe in Him. We trust Him. As we read the words of Scripture, we are drawn by the Holy Spirit to ‘see’ Him. We watch His tenderness with the broken, His fierceness with the self-righteous. We look on, in awe and admiration, as He challenges the legalist, lifts the lowly, defends the accused and reaches out in mercy to the excluded, forgotten and alone. We listen to His words of comfort for the mourning, His compassionate reassurances to the doubting and His invitation to those who would follow Him. All of this flows from faith, from trusting that God is not a liar and that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity.

It is not always easy to believe – at least I do not find it so. Often my belief feels weak, like an advent candle flickering in the wind of uncertainty, or a grain of mustard seed.

It is not always easy to believe – at least I do not find it so. Often my belief feels weak, like an advent candle flickering in the wind of uncertainty, or a grain of mustard seed. The Covid-19 Pandemic, the political uncertainties of this present moment, the pain of personal loss or struggle, watching people I love and care for facing the darknesses of despair, doubt and death – all of these and many more can make believing difficult – but then I call to mind that faith is a gift. I do not create it. I cannot manufacture it. Instead, I come to God and receive it from my Creator. I can no more manufacture faith than I can manufacture life – they are both gifts that I must continually receive. And how do I receive them? Through God’s Words – the Word that is Christ Himself as well as the word that brings Christ vividly and faithfully into focus – the Scriptures. God’s Spirit vivifies me. Through the Spirit’s Power, the Spirit’s Presence and the Spirit’s purposes, I am able to keep my eyes on the Saviour, even when the darkness feels like it will conceal Him.

I can no more manufacture faith than I can manufacture life – they are both gifts that I must continually receive. And how do I receive them? Through God’s Words – the Word that is Christ Himself as well as the word that brings Christ vividly and faithfully into focus – the Scriptures. God’s Spirit vivifies me.

In Isaiah’s time, centuries before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah was moved by the Spirit to write of the Suffering Servant. This figure was almost certainly a figure like Hezekiah, who was used by God to bring hope and direction to Israel, but Isaiah’s words also point ahead – to the One Who would deliver not only Israel, but also all who would trust in the Servant’s redeeming work. What we now call The Servant Songs (Isaiah 42:1–4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 50:4–7; and Isaiah 52:13–53:12) portray a figure who would set Israel, and ultimately the world, free. He would be the answer to their deepest longings and heart-felt prayers. Israel, like us, would have to learn to trust, though – and wait.

And wait. And wait. And wait.

It is little wonder that the last Servant song begins with the words ‘Who has believed our report’?’ Could this ordinary looking figure, who

‘had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him’

Isaiah 53:2, NRSV

really rescue the world? Could such an ordinary looking person be the One?

Our lives are often marked by this unexpressed uncertainty, I think. Is this Jesus, the One Who died a criminal’s death, and lived a wanderer’s life, and was born to an ordinary family in a poor community in the outposts of the Roman Empire really able to change the world? Can He really change me?

In our finest moments we trust, believe and celebrate Him, but in our darkest and most uncertain times we might wonder about Him too. He is enough though. He is the One. His is the life that illuminates the darkness. His is the Voice that bids our fears to cease. His is the forgiveness that sets us free. This ordinary looking man, Who is also the Son of God and the Second Person of the Trinity is our Saviour, our Healer, our Baptiser and our Coming King. He is the Answer to our deepest needs and longings, the Expression of God to us in the midst of all that swirls around us.

To believe in Christ, to receive the gift of faith from God to believe this, is to be anchored in Hope; and even when the winds of adversity and uncertainty assail us, this Anchor remains firm – not because we are strong, but because He is.

God anchors us, we do not anchor God.

To believe in Christ, to receive the gift of faith from God to believe this, is to be anchored in Hope; and even when the winds of adversity and uncertainty assail us, this Anchor remains firm – not because we are strong, but because He is. God anchors us, we do not anchor God.

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