Chasing the Thrill of Hope | Week Three: Be Still
Advent Series Introduction
I started wondering how it’s all going to fit together this year. How do I check off all the must’s, but balance them with all of the maybe’s that are such a reality this season — and still embrace the miracle of Christmas?
Maybe we’re thinking about it wrong.
Maybe, if we didn’t work toward Christmas like its a deadline, we could see the miracle embedded in the must’s and maybe’s? That the miracle lives in the thrill of hope we carry with us every day?
That’s what this Advent series is about. To stay centered around the thrill of our hope, to stay mindful of the miracle every day, we can look to the profound simplicity in the Christmas story.
In the middle of her own worries and cares, Mary chose to be open to God’s plans.
In the middle of chaos, the innkeeper chose to be present.
In the middle of their must’s, the shepherds chose to be still.
This Advent, let’s follow their lead and not miss the miracle. Let’s chase the thrill of hope in this weary world by choosing to be open, to be present, and to be still.
Week 3: Be Still
Week Three: Be Still
The magnet hanging on my fridge whispers what the mug in my cabinet repeats: “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10, ESV).
I’ve always loved this verse’s permission to slow down and pause. For this former cut-throat checklist-er (insert “raises hand” emoji), the invitation from this verse to seek stillness was welcome.
But when I learned that another way to translate “be still” is “cease striving,” the meaning shifted significantly for me. I was striving through all the things — work stuff, mom stuff, house stuff, church stuff — and this directive to stop doing everything myself hit deep. It didn’t really mean get out my pretty journal and sip my coffee and be with God — though He wants that, too. I knew it was a call to stop my striving and look to Him. I needed to stop placing my hope and worth in my checklist.
It is this lens that lingers when I read of the shepherds in the Christmas story. When the angels lit up the dark sky above them, they were right in the middle of their life’s work — their to do’s and checklists.
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us,” (Luke 2:8-15, ESV).
It’s night, so they’re doing what they do: Protect the sheep. Some Bible scholars believe that these were the shepherds who kept and guarded the most perfect of the lambs, the ones used for sacrifice in the temple. So these might have been the elite shepherds — those who truly understood the need for a perfect lamb. But as the angels disappeared, our shepherds had a decision to make. Guard the sheep or see the Lamb?
How long did they stand there? Did they stay silent for a minute, stunned? Did they compare what they heard, checking to see that they all heard the same thing? Did they repeat it, for clarity? And honest to goodness, what would they do with all of those sheep?
And then they agreed: Let us go. Let’s see this thing that has happened. They leave in the middle of their actual, real jobs, at night, when those sheep are the most vulnerable, and they go see Jesus.
They go, because they didn’t place their hope in the sheep.
They go, because they placed their hope in the Lamb.
When productivity and striving get in my way, I can still easily lose sight of what matters mosts. When I’m placing my hope in the wrong things, I can even warp my to-do’s enough to believe that they matter most. When my to do’s take priority, when my gift wrapping and shopping become a chore, when it all feels too much — it means I’ve lost sight of where my hope lies.
It means I haven’t been still.
But the thrill of our hope is that He is Emmanuel. He is with us. Because He came then, He is with us now. The beloved story of Jesus’ birth meets me in my to-do-list moments.
We can find the holy in the hurry.
We can see the majesty in the mundane.
We can feel the miracle in the musts.
He’s right here in all of it. I just need to look up to find my hope. I need to cease striving to see Him. Instead of chasing this weary world’s version of anything, I want to choose falling on my knees. Then, even in the middle of my to-do's, I'll be able to be still. To cease striving. And find the thrill of hope.
“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining,
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees.
O hear the angels' voices.
O night divine,
O night, when Christ was born.
O night divine,
O night, O night divine.”
What is keeping you from being open to God’s plans (week one)?
What is keeping you from being present (week two)?
What obstacles keep you from being still (week three)?
Where do you feel God might be asking you to cease striving?
How can you be more intentional about looking up?
Name some places where I feel I might be striving or doing things in my own power. Where do I need to rely on God to do what I’ve been doing on my own?
What steps can I take to create a routine to be still? Where do I feel prompted to do less?
What do I feel called to pray for in the area of being still and striving?