Advent Week 1: Hope
Luke 6. 20-21, NRSV
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Having lived on four continents I have witnessed poverty and hunger in a variety of settings. During our years in Hungary I would make monthly visits to a village far from Budapest where our good friends Tibi and Natasha lived. These two Roma believers opened their modest home for a house church and welcomed overnight guests who came to encourage and mentor young believers and seekers. In an area of high unemployment they nonetheless offered their guests their own beds and what they could afford from their meager pantry. On one occasion we arrived mid-Saturday afternoon and immediately went to make home visits and pray with local believers. Following several of these we returned to Tibi’s home for a worship service that lasted the traditional two hours! Usually following that worship we would sit down to a simple meal but on this particular visit Tibi sheepishly apologized for not having anything to offer us. He said simply, “Ralph, sometimes we fast even when we don’t want to.”
Poverty and hunger struck home for me that evening and into the next day. Oh, I was fine with skipping a couple of meals but I wondered how many days at the end of each month they “fasted” in such a manner. Yet they didn’t complain or seek pity. They sang and prayed and absorbed Bible teaching even as their bellies screamed for sustenance. We Westerners are often distracted by the pursuit of food. We allow our relentless appetites and fear of hunger pangs to distract us from the kingdom nurturing we need so desperately.
The Advent season is often filled with an abundance of food that far exceeds our need. May we seek in this particular season to quell the temptation of abundance and free ourselves to far more beneficial spiritual nourishment.
Prayer: Father God, with the blessings of abundance come the temptations to over-state our bodies. Help us to recognize the point between meeting our physical needs and over-indulgence. Then guide us to be grateful and to employ our energy to growing in faith through contemplation, prayer and action that builds your kingdom! Amen.
Action: Skip the mid-morning, and/or mid-afternoon, and/or after-supper snacks and settle for three meals. When you feel your stomach churning from the missing snack(s), thank God for the discipline you are showing this day and know that you can repeat it tomorrow!
Ralph Stocks serves with his Wife, Tammy Stocks, as a CBF missionary to the Roma people in Romania.