Today we light the first candle of advent.
We light the candle of hope from our homes today, as circumstances around us seem hopeless at times; our communities struggling to keep afloat their livelihood, their relationships, and their sanity, a fitting time to talk about hope.
This candle we light today is also known as the prophet’s candle, transporting us back toward the days of Israel, when all hope seemed lost to them too. Yet, God sent the prophets, while Israel was firmly planted in their idolatry, under siege of enemy armies and battling famine and exile, to plant the seeds of promise, to reveal God’s plan of salvation. Though it would not come to fruition immediately, the promise gave them hope of His presence, the coming King Emmanuel, God with us.
Our celebration this time of year, is meant to remind us of hope; just as the Israelites suffered in war and exile, while Mary & Joseph traveled to Bethlehem under Roman orders, God was in it, He was there, orchestrating His will to fulfill His plan and His purposes. He had not forgotten, nor had He abandoned His people.
Hope means to wait with eager expectation. The babe we commemorate this season was long awaited. From the garden of Eden, this Savior had been promised, to crush the head of the serpent. Now, on this side of history, we see pieces of God’s salvation plan for his people, and it is wonderful and amazing, surprising and patient.
The babe wrapped swaddling cloths, lying in a manger, has finally come. His purpose, a great rescue, that sins would be forgiven, and relationship with God restored. A plan of sacrifice and suffering to bring yet a deeper hope into the world – the present time of redemption, and the coming day of His kingdom.
As we remember His birth this season, we are both observing promises fulfilled, and waiting with eager expectation for the day all things will be made new again. “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).
“But since we belong to the day, we must be serious and put the armor of faith and love on our hearts, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation” (1 Thess 5:8) as we continue to wait for the fulfillment of His plan. Our God is reliable and He is worthy of His people’s trust, however this trusting and hoping in God is an expression of great faith, because it means we endure patiently and confidently in the hope God will act for the salvation of His people.
The psalmist cries out, “why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Ps 42:5) and, “I wait for Yahweh; I wait and put my hope in His word” (Ps 130:5). Placing our hope in God, trusting Him for our needs today, and for tomorrow, depending on His promises that He is with us and has a good plan for our lives, even in the uncertainty surrounding us.
May we celebrate with hope today, remembering that great hope has come, and is coming. May He give us grace to help us as we wait.
How does the advent season help you to hope?