Peace family, Advent is here, and this week is the week of Hope!
If you aren’t familiar with advent, it usually involves lighting a different candle in a wreath on each of the Sunday evenings leading up to Christmas, and in my family, we sang a specific hymn for each candle. The four candles each symbolize one of the virtues Christ brings us: hope, love, joy, and peace. This week’s virtue is hope, and what a great hope it is! There are so many things to look forward to!
So much of the Christmas season is about hope. With celebratory anticipation, we set up our decorations, watch Christmas movies, decide what to give our loved ones as gifts, and think ahead about the kinds of treats and meals we’d like to prepare this year for our festivities. Children look forward to the big day, write their Christmas lists, and keep adding to them. Pastors leaf through thick commentaries and check wikipedia, have their wives listen to their sermon notes, and think about fresh ways to express the gospel while also tying things together into traditional services.
For me, I’ve pulled out my tree, my mother’s nativity set, and my grandfather’s menorah. I’ve been reading some of my favorite Christmas books, like one from Gooseberry Patch that I picked up at a Goodwill store. I’ve mixed up English Christmas pudding and Christmas cake recipes that have to “ripen” until Christmas, and sought out recipes for chocolate crinkle cookies and lebkuchenherz, a kind of gingerbread I once had at a fair in Germany. My purse is full of scraps of paper, scribbled all over with sudden gift ideas that I can’t wait to buy or make and give away! I am so full of excitement and hope for great times these next few weeks!
Even so, how much more hope can we have imagining what it would have been like to be waiting for the Messiah, God’s promise for redemption of a broken world! The hope of Christ, God’s gift to us, and knowing that he actually did come and fulfill God’s promises, is better than any presents, any cookies, any warm meals together, or any special candlelight services. As my family lit the first candle in our advent wreath each year, we would sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and think about that hope and expectation. Take some time this week, to reflect on the hope that God’s people waited for through the centuries, and the hope that we have now. Read Isaiah 40:1-5, Isaiah 52:7-9, Isaiah 11:1-10, and let this week be a week of hope!