My friend, Shelbi, always manages to get all her Advent candles lit. I don’t know how she does it every year. It’s probably because she’s very organized and plans ahead! She uses the Advent wreath as one way to prepare herself for worshiping Christ every Christmas season. I confess I’m usually two weeks into December before I’m even close to lighting one Advent candle. I love the idea of an Advent wreath though I’m slow about making it happen. It’s such a tangible way to give purpose and focus to our thoughts during the four weeks of the Christmas season. The lighting of the candles guides our meditations as each of the four candles on the wreath represents hope, preparation, love, and joy, while the final central candle, to be lit on Christmas day, represents Christ.
Since I don’t have an Advent wreath this year, I thought I’d write about it instead, metaphorically lighting that first candle that represents hope. How we need hope, especially at Christmas. For many, the flame of hope has burned down to the wick. We don’t know how we’re going to continue on. The darkness seems to close in as all our failures and all the can’ts, shan’ts, won’ts, and didn’ts come crashing down upon us. Hope? What hope? Not for me, not this year. Maybe next year.
The incredible blessing of Christmas is that we don’t have to wait until next year or a change in our circumstances to gain hope. We need to remind ourselves that true, continually-burning hope can’t be found in earth bound things like gifts and events, or even people. The true hope that God intended us all to experience transcends the hubbub of our modern Christmases and shines it’s light on the wonder of God’s infinite tenderness. The hope given to us because of that little baby born in Bethlehem draws our eyes away from the tinsel and turkey, gifts and gatherings to the fulfilled promise of a Savior who rescues us from despair, isolation, and the hopelessness of sin.
So what hope do we have?
We have hope because Jesus was born and lived, died, and rose again. The prophets foretold of a Savior who would take away our sin—and that little baby born in a stable was the beginning of hope for us. The prophet Isaiah exulted in this hope when he wrote, By His scourging we are healed (Isaiah 53:5); the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isaiah 53:6); the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).
We have hope because God keeps His promises. He promised a Savior who would redeem us from our sins—and then in fulfillment of the long-given promise, Jesus came. Matthew 1:21 proclaims, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” He promised that if we place our faith in Christ, that God would accept Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sin.
We have hope because through Jesus we can know God. Matthew 1:23 says, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” “God with us” means access to God. No separation; no waiting; we can enter into His presence at any time. We are not forsaken for we have “God with us.”
We have hope that one day we will see Him whom our soul loves. It’s that hope of seeing our dear Savior face to face that keeps us going at times. 1 Peter 1:7–8 affirms that our present trials will “be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” with the result that, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible.”
We have hope because one day sin and death and sickness and pain will be abolished. Revelation 21:3-4 encourages us with these words, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” This is such a sweet hope for many of us who find the sorrows of this life almost too much to bear. But one day those sorrows will all be swept away—because of Jesus.
Hope begins with that babe born in Bethlehem. Take some time to think about the unfading hope we have because of Jesus. You might want to listen to a song I’ve been enjoying by Josh Wilson called “Christmas Changes Everything” at http://joshwilsonmusic.com/CDNoel/.