This week begin our Advent celebration. Each week, four prior to Christmas Eve, we gather to light a candle and consider the coming of our savior, the birth of Jesus. It is a time to focus on the real reason for the merriment of the season. This week we celebrate Hope.
I listened to a sermon the other day in which the pastor made reference to a practice of prisoner guardianship. In Acts 28:16 we find the apostle Paul once again being detained while the government tried to figure out what to make of this Roman who spoke of Christianity and the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul was under a type of house arrest. He would be chained to soldiers, but allowed to be in their home. Paul could receive visitors and had even entertained large groups who would come seeking a better understanding what he preached.
Paul was indeed a prisoner still, not able to travel or go and do as he pleased. He was restricted and under the watchful eye of a Roman soldier 24/7. Some say the soldiers probably relieved one another in shifts every 12 hrs. This is what caught my attention…can you imagine being chained to Paul???? I mean the guy NEVER stopped talking about JESUS!
I can almost hear the wife of the soldier who had to have Paul in his home….
“Honey, the good news is I get to come home tonight, the bad news is I have to bring some work home with me…his name is Paul.”
“What? You’re bringing a prisoner here??? Again?”
“Look, honey, this one is not so bad, he’s just a talkative troublemaker.”
Yep, Acts 28 chronicles 2 years of such confinement. During that time soldier after soldier would be exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They would no doubt witness conversations and relationships Paul had with those who would visit. They would see and hear the message of HOPE Paul adamantly preached and lived.
Day in and day out Paul would take any opportunity to speak…”for this reason therefore, I request to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the HOPE of Israel….explaining to them(Jews) by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus….from morning until evening.” Acts 28:20-23
Hmmmmm….there was Paul, certainly NOT wear he wanted to be, but also sure that he was where God had wanted him. I thought instantly of my mom.
Last month I found myself at the hospital bedside of my mother. One week she was a busy lady, teaching Sunday school, visiting friends and caring for our family, the next week she was sidelined by lung surgery. It was a quick turn of events, but we are praising God that a “small spot” that was actually an early stage cancer, was successfully removed! Unfortunately, this entailed removing a portion of her lung and at almost 75 years of age this meant a difficult recovery.
We were blessed to be able to stay in her room at all times and took shifts each night and day. Looking back I now see how mom was much like Paul. Mom’s hospital staff rotated throughout her stay. Each new shift of nurses and technicians would expose more people to mom’s faith in her God. Yep, even in the midst of difficult days, pain, frustration and exhaustion she would let them know about her God. She made certain they knew she was prayed for by faithful friends, and gave God all the glory for each aspect of her recovery. Those hospital workers had no chance to escape her…they were chained to her like Paul’s guards. Tasked with keeping a watchful eye on her, they would no doubt be exposed to her God, the reason for her hope.
This week of advent, as we celebrate HOPE, I am challenged to be mindful of who God has “chained” to me. Who has God placed in my life, and how can I share the HOPE I have in my savior? Do I live my life the way I feel in my heart? Does my faith show? Do I consistently place my HOPE in God, or do I tend to rely on myself or other circumstances? If someone were literally chained to me night and day what kind of testimony would they experience?
Lord, help us to be ever mindful that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our HOPE, that through the life of Jesus Christ, His death and His resurrection, we can know forgiveness and eternal life with God.
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of our deeds,….but according to His mercy….justified by His grace…made heirs according to the HOPE of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7