Editor's note:

Renovaré published an Advent devotional in 2013 filled with thoughtful pieces by some of our dearest friends. One of these is most certainly Mimi Dixon, who joins us today to share her meditation on the themes of faith and trust while walking unfamiliar pathways for the second week of Advent. 

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Traveling Unfamiliar Pathways

I never have stepped into my vehicle, turned on the engine, and started to drive without first having a clear sense of where I am headed. When I plan a journey, I begin with a destination clearly in mind. And I communicate it to other travelers. God does not, apparently, share the value of this logic.

Notice how Luke begins the story of Advent. He describes an older couple who have served God faithfully all their lives, yet been denied the one thing they desired the most: a child. Now, as they near retirement, Zechariah is visited by an angel who announces that God is about to answer their prayers.

What? Now?! Are you sure? Aren’t you a little late?

The scene shifts to a small, obscure village in the hills of Galilee. The same angel appears to a young girl to announce, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. …you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. …The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Luke 1:28, 30-36). Astonished, Mary questions how this can be? In the end, she assents: “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Two announcements predicting two miraculous births. Elizabeth and Mary begin a journey with neither a clearly defined path nor destination.

It is tempting to think that this approach was out of the norm, but even a cursory reading of God’s story reveals that this experience is more common than not. Noah “bobbed about on an oceanic flood,” clueless as to when his ordeal would end; Paul and a half-starved shipload of travelers dodged shoals in a storm off the coast of Malta (Genesis 6 ff.; Acts 27). All they could do was wait it out. Wait, and as it turned out, do one other thing. At Paul’s urging, they broke bread and gave thanks to God. Under the circumstances, it was a crazy thing to do. But they were strengthened by this faithful act and made it through the long night. As dawn glowed crimson in the east, the ship shattered on a reef, yet all on board made it safely to land.

In the uncertainty and suspense of not knowing, we learn to keep our eyes wide open, scanning the horizon of our experience for evidence of God’s leading. Like Noah we may have to do this for a long time before at last a spring sprig signals that there is land ahead. Like Paul and his near-sinking boatload, we would be wise to feast ourselves again and again on signs of promise and hope even as we are tossed about on the sea of not knowing.

This is the invitation we embrace in the second week of Advent.

On the one hand, we firmly grasp the promise that “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). On the other hand, we embrace the reality that God operates well outside our frame of reference. Unlike us, God operates by a different timetable; God is comfortable with chaos; God’s ways are not our ways.

So, what does it look like for us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)? Some years ago, I was confused. My ministry was getting nowhere and I didn’t know if I was where God wanted me to be. I telephoned my father to ask, “Have I made a mistake? Have I somehow wandered out of God’s will and that is the reason for what I am experiencing?”

My father listened to my story, and then asked, “When you made the decision to be where you are, how did you discern God’s leading? Did you pray about it? Did you seek the counsel of godly people? And when you made the decision, did you feel peace about it? Did you experience a deep sense that this was exactly what God wanted you to do? The peace you felt is important to remember. Let the memory of that faithful beginning sustain and guide you now. Know that this turbulent time will pass. God brought you this far; he will make a way.”

The angel Gabriel assured Zechariah that God would make a way. Gabriel assured Mary that God would make a way: only believe!

In this second week of Advent we wait together for the promise to be fulfilled. We wait with Noah, with Zechariah, with Elizabeth, with Mary, with Paul, knowing with certainty that what God has promised will happen. It is inevitable.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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