by Josh Kestner

I’m holding on for as long as I can before I buy new tires.

My tires are just old. My rear passenger-side tire is slowly leaking air. Every week or so, I have to fill up the tire to get it back to its baseline pressure. It’s cumbersome, but it’s easier (and cheaper) than replacing all four of my tires – at least for now. But I do dream of the day when my 15-year-old Toyota Avalon will have some shiny, new tires on it.

Are you waiting or wishing for something new in your life? What’s keeping you from getting it?

One of my favorite Bible passages to come back to each Advent comes from the prophet Isaiah:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

The prophet is speaking to people living far away from the places they’ve called home, places they’ve been forced to leave. They long for the long-lost comfort and safety and are praying for a return. God tells them that even while they grieve what they’ve lost, they can have hope for something new.

Newness is something I’m holding onto this Advent. Theologically, we are searching for ways that God’s love continues to break into the world in new ways. More personally, I’m looking for new energy, new opportunities for justice in my community, and new stories of peace in war-torn regions of the world.

It’s so refreshing to set our minds on something new – especially when some things in our lives seem to be falling apart. The longer we wait, the more difficult it is to believe that God is actively doing new things around us.

When I fill up my tires, they lose air quicker. The longer I postpone the purchase of new tires, the more worn out my old ones get. The same seems true of our resilience in the face of overdue newness. It wanes as time goes on.

Replacing tires on a car is something I can control. But there are so many uncontrollable things in our lives that weigh on us – things that make believing in God’s promise of a way in the wilderness and streams in a wasteland seem like foolishness.

What are the things that chip away at your hope? Where do you turn when you start to doubt that God is doing new things?

Before the prophet offers this impossible dream to his listeners, he reminds them of God’s persistence even in their helplessness:

But now, this is what the Lord says—

“. . . he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

The imagery is healing. Nothing we have done and nothing that has been done to us will separate us from God. The fires and the floods are frightening and dangerous, but they are not the end of our story.

Perhaps Advent can be a time when we accept that we cannot control everything that happens in our lives. It can be a time when we open our eyes to the different ways God pops up in the world around us. It can be a time when we pray for newness and perceive glimpses of new things appearing around us.

Buy new tires. Try something new for breakfast. Make a new friend. Dream about a new adventure. Embrace the little things that remind us how it feels for God to show up where and when we least expect it.

Discussion Questions:

1. When was the last time you tried something new? How did it feel? What did you love about it? What could you have done without?

2. We talked about how difficult it can be to “believe” in God’s eternal peace, justice, and love when we don’t see it with our own eyes. What does “belief” mean to you?

3. What are some prayers of hope that you have for this Advent? How are you actively waiting for a change to come?

Closing Prayer:

God of newness, we long for life in the midst of death and peace in the midst of chaos and joy in the midst of sorrow. Break through our stubborn or cynical minds and show us that you are alive in our world. Empower us to work alongside you to make the world a better place. Amen.

Josh Kestner is the Campus Pastor at University Lutheran Church in Clemson, SC. The congregation hosts Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) for Clemson University. Josh and his wife, Kristen, met as students in LCM a decade ago, and they feel blessed to be back in a place that feels like home. What a gift to be called to accompany young adults at such a meaningful time in their lives!