Editor's note: "An uncommon Advent: the arrival of a Savior in our lives" is a sampling of biblical meditations composed by members of the Concordia University Ann Arbor and Wisconsin community. It is our prayer that you will take time during the Advent season to read and reflect upon God's Word and await the coming of Jesus with newfound anticipation and zeal through the Holy Spirit.
December 1 – Uncommon tests and the key
Isaiah 7:10-8:8; 1 Peter 3:1-22
As the calendar turns to December, it is not uncommon for universities, Concordia included, to become places wrought by test anxiety. Final exams loom, and students scramble to get ready to take their tests while faculty are braced to grade them. By Christmas, the trouble will be behind us, and we look forward to celebration. Before that, however, come the tests.
Today’s Scripture texts also mention tests—and particularly challenging ones at that. Judah’s King Ahaz was threatened by an enemy alliance, leaving the ruler and his people shaken as trees of the forest shake in the wind. The prophet Isaiah told Ahaz to keep calm, not to fear, and to trust the Lord. This was a test of faith. Similarly, Peter wrote to first-century Christians facing persecution. They could expect to suffer grief in all kinds of trials the same way that gold is refined by fire. Theirs, too, would be a faith to be tested.
It is not uncommon for God’s people to experience tests of faith. I am relieved that I do not have to face enemy armies or life-threatening persecution considered by the prophet and the apostle. Nevertheless, no day passes without challenges to my faith. Some tests are really hard, and I struggle. The aim of a test in a college classroom is to help a student learn and grow. Sometimes, students fail. God allows tests in our lives to draw us nearer to Himself. Sometimes, we fail our tests of faith. King Ahaz came up short: he preferred the aid of the Egyptians rather than to trust the Lord.Yet, I cannot be too hard on Ahaz. To live a life of faith is to Live Uncommon! However, I admit that weakness of faith is not uncommon for me.
Isaiah urged Ahaz to put the Lord to the test, to ask for a sign that He could be trusted. More confident of his own ideas and solutions, Ahaz refused to do so. For people plagued by such weakness, myself included, the Lord offered the key anyway,The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). For all the times that we fail, Jesus was sent to rescue and deliver us.
Looking beyond times of testing trouble toward Christmas—and the Christ—is a good idea. Our Advent hope comes from the promise fulfilled in Jesus.
Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry joined the faculty 1991 and has served as President of Concordia since 1997. View a full schedule of “An uncommon Advent” readings here.
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