Advent / COVID-19 / Paul Baxley

A Substantial Hope

By Paul Baxley

Paul Baxley

This past Sunday we began the Season of Advent. So much was different this year. Because of the surging coronavirus pandemic, we did not begin Advent with large congregations in sanctuaries. Many more worshipped online than in person.

We could not sing the carols of Advent with the same energy, instead the sounds were much more subdued. Choirs were replaced by instrumentalists, or perhaps by small singing ensembles spread across almost empty sanctuaries.

This Advent did not just begin in a world overcome by a surging public health crisis. It also began in the United States as our public life is increasingly consumed by the bitter and devastating pandemic of partisanship that is tearing at the fabric of our common life. And, it comes at the end of a calendar year where we saw unmistakable evidence of the ongoing impacts of a pandemic of racial injustice that has persisted in this part of the world for more than 400 years. Beyond all this, there are the more ordinary struggles and challenges that come in the course of our daily lives; other illnesses, fears, and disappointments.

Yet the first Sunday of Advent came.

For all that was different, even in the midst of difficult and debilitating pandemics, some things were the same. For example, those of us who light candles of Advent in our worship took the daring and remarkable step of beginning the Advent season by lighting a candle of hope.

The first light that pierces the darkness during this, or any Advent, is the flame of hope. As I watched a single candle take fire as a proclamation of hope, I was struck by the recognition: if there was ever a season in which people of faith should bear witness to hope, it is this one. If there was ever a moment when we needed to be held in a relentless hope, it is now. In lighting that single candle, we added our voices to the witness of John’s Gospel: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

Lighting a candle of hope is substantially different from being optimistic. That is a good thing, because these days hold little reason for optimism. Optimism is rooted in positive circumstances around us, or in the conditions we can create at the intersection of skill, intellect and fortune. Optimism can vanish as quickly as it rises. Advent—this Advent or any Advent—does not begin with a witness to optimism, because we do not need God to be present for there to be optimism. But hope rises, flourishes and perseveres because of the presence and provision of a God who makes a way where there is otherwise no way. Paul presents the source of our Advent hope in his words to the Corinthians:

You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful….

In this season of waiting, we are not alone, because the coming Christ is already present among us, strengthening us, entirely faithful, always present. We are not left to ourselves to face the challenges and the terrible struggles of these days, but instead God is meeting us in Jesus, renewing us, remaking us, restoring us.

When the child born in Bethlehem was in the final hours of his life, he spoke to his terrified disciples and said: “In the world you face tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) Because Christ is present within us, around us, and among us, because we are not alone, we can hold fast to hope in dark and unusual days. The Christ whose coming we await not only came to this world, he faced its very worst and overcame. Even now, he is with us as refuge, strength and deliverer. The hope unleashed in Advent is not something we create; it is a gift of grace we receive and then share with others.

We lit a candle of hope the first Sunday in Advent. Then in congregations across the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, preachers stood to preach.

I cannot remember any Advent season when the weight has been any heavier than this one, but for the same reason, I cannot imagine any time when the message of Advent is more necessary than it is right now. I’m praying for my colleagues who preach each week during this Advent surrounded by multiple pandemics. I’m praying that they will have the words, the grace, the courage and the perseverance to use their words to light a candle of hope in this particularly difficult time.

I’m praying that their words will summon us away from an optimism rooted in human possibility and instead to a hope that is only possible because God came near in Jesus. I’m praying that in their words and in their tones, people starving for good news will discover the truth that God has not abandoned us to the struggles of the present darkness, but that God has come near and desires to make right all that is broken around us, and what’s more, that God desires to use us in that holy work.

I’m praying that as the Holy Spirit speaks through, in, and around the words that are preached, we will be drawn to a hope so substantial that we are not only receive it but come to reflect it, until lighting a candle of hope is not only an act of worship but a way of witness and a path toward the transformation of our communities and the world.

2 thoughts on “A Substantial Hope

  1. Pingback: Amid COVID-19, some will do more for Christmas, some will do less, some will travel and some will stay home – Baptist News Global –

  2. The abyss of ‘all knowledge’ – knowing good and evil.

    What is the functioning of humanity; what keeps it from completely imploding when issues aren’t resolved; what keeps it advancing; and what can be expected to happen if restraint is no longer a consideration?

    The answers are within every individual – ‘The abyss (vessels) of all knowledge.’ Knowledge is not in the trees, rocks, space, on another planet, etc.; but only in the life of every individual, even if the individual does not identify it because of their particular interests. This is biblical.

    A biblical reminder of the history and progress of humanity as it is written.

    Stage 1: Man was Instinctual

    In the beginning, the Genesis, prior to the event that a man was said to have eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, primitive man had been and was instinctively obedient, instinctively staying within the limited cognitive functioning, not knowing there was a good and evil, right or wrong in any of his actions in doing so. He didn’t even identify that he was unclothed.

    Stage 2: Man became Intellectual

    Upon making the tentative decision to do something outside the boundaries set before him; “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat. ” Spoken by God into the spiritual mind of man, “for in the day you eat from it, you shall surely die.”

    The action of one individual in making the decision was the cognitive intellectual jolt (quantum leap) of all mankind to have access to all knowledge, good and evil; and the status and position of being more than a creature operating on instinct to survive. Man would (had become like one of Us) become like those in the heavenly dimensions, knowing good and evil (as does Satan) – knowing right from wrong. That the man did not physically die from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and was sent out from the garden, indicates that a form of death exists in the spirit in being subjected to all knowledge – in knowing good and evil. A third event would need to take place to be complete.

    This is mankind as you know it; yet not as it ultimately shall be.

    Empowered mankind, based in the limitations of the time and moving forward with every allowed discovery, begin to intellectually reason all knowledge, good and evil, as well as knowledge of the heavens in light of the creation of all things; but lacked a character quality to choose good (life) over death (evil).

    Mankind began by stages as mentioned above.

    The spiritual levels of cognitive understanding and empowerment:

    Stage 1: Instinctual: reacting and responding to external stimulus without awareness of consequences

    Stage 2: Intellectual: calculated evaluations based in perceived wants and needs

    Stage 3. Intuitive: not having to think of doing what is right and doing it (yet to be accepted and achieved by most all)

    And so everything was and is still studied. War, idol worship, religion, entertainment, philosophy, invention, decadence, class structures, bias, racism, greed, jealousy, hatred, avarice, envy, strife, debauchery, pettiness, murder, cheating, lying, and so on and so on.

    Consider: On one hand, are there not institutes of higher education focus on the positives of society – developing healthy alternatives to bad decisions in health and environment concerns; maintaining utilities that serve the entire populace; addressing the food needs of the world; teaching peaceful initiatives, creating cohesiveness, eliminating divisions?

    On the other hand, are there not institutes of higher learning promoting ongoing competition (in business and sports); strategies of defense and war; financial ploys that enhance class divisions and exploitation; creating environments which pit individuals and groups against one another; creation and providing questionable entertainment venues which dehumanizes, making violence, lewd and suggestive behavior acceptable standards.

    So it has been the way of leaders and followers to gather most everything from the abyss of all knowledge (their minds), and let everybody sort it out; while making sure other certain knowledge was not revealed that might bring civilization together, thereby resulting in the need for the self-serving leaders, obsolete. Man WAS essentially permitted to work out understanding of the knowledge of good and evil on his own – what those who dwelled in the heavens already knew and understood in advanced, who had chosen good over evil.

    And so it is still today – man repeating the same mistakes and worse, “…holding to a form of Godliness (involving good and evil), but denying it’s power (of good).”

    And yet as has been written and still true today, God in intervention and His Mercy, from time to time sent assistance into the earthly dimension (flesh) in the form of leaders, prophets, kings, to provide some guidance through the turbulent waters of the misdirection mankind would encounter when choosing a particular path.

    And at times, to show how bad things could become as mankind repeatedly followed and encourage faulty philosophy, God even sent horrific (evil) examples to show mankind the path mankind was on and how easy it would be to descend into complete depravity; sending at other times, good examples to show a better direction. And this is where mankind is now; still choosing evil (death) over good (life).

    [It is to be understood, God in having written of the event(s), said, that from the power of just one individual taking one action (good or evil) was (and is) capable of affecting the entire course of humanity.] How many understand what one bad attitude does in filtering into society?

    Many have come…in one form or another spouting their wisdom which everyone knows (understands). And many have followed them. But what has changed; nothing, because they have spoken from their heart – good mixed with evil, all of it called good.

    Even before the above mentioned quantum leap from instinct to intellect, the first order of things from the heavenly dimension was to set an event as occurring on the earth (The Revelation) as an indicator, as when mankind would be expected to have worked through all aspects of good and evil – right and wrong as a species; whether or not individuals within the species individually acknowledge their responsibility to one another, as sons and daughters to a higher authority.

    As it was one individual who sinned (chose to rebel against obedience) changing instinctual man to intellectual knowledgeable mankind, it would be one individual prepared and sacrificed to be held in Satan’s grasp of every earthly deception and temptation, who would be the salvation of all mankind.

    Stage 3: Intuitive and Eternal: understanding without need for conscious reasoning or decision making

    Stage 3: Man becomes Intuitive

    Once done – the unconditionally obedient individual, even resisting the temptation to fight against evil, the wheels would be set in motion for all others who desired to be freed from the bondage and temptations of sin, establishing an elevated understanding, becoming innately (reborn) intuitive, by accepting the knowledge (of good) of the empowering sacrifice.

    With that said, this writing is a courtesy; a firm reminder of time to wake up, and to immediately sort through what it means to elevate from, instinctual, to intellectual, to intuitive, species in the totality of existence.

    Oh man, you have warred enough, experimented enough, tested enough, hoarded enough, deceived enough, compromised enough, destroyed enough, perverted enough, and so on and so on. For those who do not seriously consider their responsibilities and actions, the consequences will prove themselves against you.

    To put this writing into modern day terms: No more sugar coating; no more putting off resolving the issues once and for all.

    Of the things written – You know these things even if you choose not to think of them, or ignore them, and even disregard them. “Behold, the man who has become like one of US, knowing good from evil, and now, lest he stretch out his hand , and take ALSO from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever, – therefore the Lord sent him (man) out from the garden of Eden to cultivate the ground from which he (man) was taken.” And so every thing is a struggle daily; except wisdom and reason.

    Mankind, thinking they are at the pinnacle of intellectual – knowing all things – good and evil, has been operating under the assumption of being able to manage their existence, without having a key piece of knowledge that would empower him (man) to an even greater status in the creation of all things.

    Look around you., Thousands and thousands of years and this is the best mankind can create; depths of despair? Corruption? Iniquity? Hatred? Injustice? Inequality? All for the sake of a capitalistic economy? Does there need to be another explanation for anything which has occurred on the face of the earth, which has occurred since the beginning of recorded history?

    Mankind has been playing the role of gods, knowing good from evil, yet choosing evil; and it continues this day. Your elders, parents, children, everyone knows right and wrong, good and evil; and how many for millennium have mixed good with evil calling it good? You know this: Good has been mixed with evil, and is called good. No more.

    It shall no longer be. Remember the promise of the separation of the tares from the wheat. Man (having a soul and spirit) has stood knowledgeable right along side with those who dwell in heaven, even though a man’s body is physically confined to the physical realm only. The soul, mind and spirit was elevated to the heavens when man became intellectual knowing good and evil. The knowledge of this has been hidden among the clever distractions and omissions. The only real separation was in what mankind would choose to limit himself to live by ultimately. Behold the earth and the turbulence.

    And greater things of understanding than these shall come. Those who spread evil cannot look at you without exposing themselves for the evil they hide in their minds and hearts.

    What response do the seers and prophets have to say to this teaching by Christ, when it was Christ that said that He Christ would be WITH you, even unto the end of days? Do you need a face to know Christ, when it was said that you would be like him – knowing good from evil? A man seeks a face; a child of God knows his Father and Brother and Holy Spirit because they (their purpose) dwells in his spirit.

    In that all mankind knows good and evil, is in HOW all men will see (know) him when the spirit is poured out on them, in how it is that all mankind will understand how they treated his sacrifice. Some have treated the sacrifice as good; and some have treated the sacrifice with evil. He gave up his life that all would have heaven as their reward FOR GIVING UP EVIL recognizing what is evil, despite their evil ways if they would but acknowledge him, in the flesh, in the spirit.

    No matter how many years a man attends a ritual or sits to listen to a man, that man who goes to another man looking for Christ in that man, will never understand the face of God looking upon him from within him, from heaven. That is understanding.

    Have you not yet begun to experience a growing awareness of a separation between the feelings of love and the divisions which still exist upon the earth? The pouring out of the spirit upon mankind? And what does that mean if you do not? If you are NOT serving good in ALL you do, you serve evil.

    There is no in between or shades of gray to say a form of lying, deception, compromise is justifiable – no matter how much you think should be allowed – it is evil.

    If you lord over another you are lording over God. and because he lives in another, God knows what your sin is.

    Religious leaders – You were to teach your replacement which IS every individual (Was it not said, Raise up a child in the way they should go?); and yet in not doing so, those you have taught have only become as you are – glorifying yourself time and time again for your wisdom. Does a parent have hundreds of children, even thousands? You bring YOUR (followers) children unto yourselves and not God. And so the world has become as it is today.

    Holding to a form of Godliness but denying it’s power – The religious leaders have set themselves up, making their knowledge the only true knowledge making their converts docile, subservient, inept, by alluding that in order to be wise, prudent, aware, you must study as much as they and obtain a degree and be as pious as they; and they speak to you as if you cannot understand good and evil unless they say what is good and evil. Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect – how many of your converts have been made perfect by YOUR hand? They lay dead waiting for an event which happened thousands of years ago. There is no mystery to the workings of evil in the churches and the Revelation speaks of their iniquity; and of being tepid.


    Everyone knows good and evil (or the Word of God is a lie), and will teach and follow what they value. You don’t need to go far to know God is your protector and that those around you are going to fall, along with all evil. Choose good. Think of the beginning and what was. In knowing good and evil, you know what must change. Judgment is now. There is no more excuse

    . …in that we all, are alive.


    Angel of the abyss

    Abaddon, Apollyon

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