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Focal Point

“Fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”

Hebrews 3:1 At 38 weeks the placenta is now at its full size and is spread out flat against the uterus. It will continue its function of supplying nutrients and antibodies to Baby Chris until he is born. His bones have hardened, a process known as ossification. His mother is now preparing for delivery in earnest – she may have taken childbirth classes to learn breathing methods to help her with pain control and work with the rhythm of her contractions during labor.

One of the techniques an expectant mother learns is to choose a focal point on the wall or ceiling to help her concentrate for breath control during labor contractions. When a contraction begins, she moves her gaze to her chosen focal point, takes a few deep breaths and begins a pattern of breathing and counting until the contraction ends. Having a focal point is important to help her screen out the distractions that might interfere with her measured breathing, allowing pain and anxiety to get the upper hand.

The Bible teaches about the importance of focal points at critical moments in the life of the believer. As a consequence for the complaints of the Hebrew nation about the manna God provided for them as they wandered in the wilderness, God sent “fiery serpents” to torment them. When they went to Moses to repent, he offered them relief and healing by having them turn their focus upward towards a bronze serpent hung on a pole (Numbers 21:4-9). In the Gospel of John (3:14-16), Jesus invoked the serpent in the wilderness as a foreshadowing of his own “lifting up” that would bring eternal life (and healing) to those who would believe. Isaiah wrote that if we focus our thoughts on God, we will know perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). As he neared the end of his earthly mission, Jesus “set his face [like flint] toward Jerusalem” (Isaiah 50:7; Luke 9:51). Peter focused on Jesus as he got out of the boat and walked towards him on the water (Matthew 14:29), and again after the Resurrection, when he jumped into the water and swam towards Jesus waiting on the shore (John 21:7). The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “look to Jesus” to help us endure the race of Christian life (Hebrews 12:1-2).

In the chaos of the world as it flexes and contracts around us, Advent coaches us to meditate on the mighty works of the Lord, the promises that are fulfilled in Christ, and the assurance of our eternal future together with the Lord. As we count down our days, we return to prayer and focus on Jesus as He perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Like preparation for childbirth classes, the church season of Advent is an exercise in waiting, as we practice again the techniques that will carry us through to the end of our lives – or to the return of Christ – navigating the challenges of daily life in a distracting world that threatens to overwhelm our peace. We grow weaker the nearer we come to deliverance, but we gain strength in Christ (Romans 8:26-29; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We gain peace in tribulation as we focus on the knowledge that He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

“…we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

2 Peter 3:13

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