Yesterday marked the first Sunday of the Advent season. Christians across the globe and through the years have observed this period of time leading up to Christmas, and I love joining together with them to prepare my heart for a proper celebration of the coming of the Baby Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in a little-known town called Bethlehem.
I love Advent. When I was a child and a teenager, my family enjoyed observing Advent with various family devotions, the lighting of the candles, Advent calendars, and a series of family devotional books by Arnold Ytreeide, beginning with Jotham’s Journey, and over the years reading Tabitha’s Travels, and Bartholomew’s Passage. Far from being meaningless, or silly, or frivolous, the yearly observance touched my heart and drew us closer as a family to each other and to our Savior.
Last Christmas, Brad and I read an Advent book together in December, and this year we are continuing our tradition as husband and wife. Brad made me a beautiful and simple – just what I love – candle holder out of a length of weathered lumber from when the power company replaced the power lines. It is a section of one of the square-cut cross pieces, and is the same wood my father-in-law used to build the cross that served as the backdrop for our wedding. Yesterday evening, we lit the first candle – the Hope Candle.
What a misunderstood word.
What a beautiful word.
Hope is something everyone could use right now.
“I sure hope so.” We’ve all heard someone growl those words almost as a veiled sort of threat, or maybe we’ve uttered them that way ourselves. We’ve heard those words spoken wistfully, or with ironic hopelessness. Looking around at the culture, at so many people I know, at the job field I used to work in, I see a world rife with hopelessness.
People need hope. I need hope.
I look around and see war, death, pain, suffering. I see a culture that has turned its back on God and His Law, I see rampant immorality and acceptance of things that would have been considered wrong even just a few years ago. I see illnesses that even the most elite scientists can’t figure out how to cure. I see the butchering of children in the womb, the desecrating of the beauty of marriage, the destruction of countless innocent lives for the greedy schemes of the very people who should be the protectors, the guardians. People running to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, anything that can numb the pain of meaninglessness. Because without Biblical hope…life truly is meaningless.
Over the years, I’ve heard pastors talk about how Biblical hope is so contrary to how we so often use the word. Biblical hope is not an “I hope so” sort of hope. It is a confident expectation.
Which immediately begs the question…Where does our hope come from and for what are we hoping?
Hope without something or Someone to hope in is meaningless.
The Psalms are full to bursting with verses reminding us of where our hope is found, and in Whom we can have that confident expectation.
Lamentations 3: 24-25 reads:
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
And 1 Peter 1: 3-4 rejoices:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope though the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you.
We hope in God. We confidently look to Jesus’s perfect life and death as the means to being forgiven, justified before God. We look forward to an eternal easing of suffering, we confidently wait for the day when the difficulties of this life will be comforted. We hope in our Savior, the God-Man Christ Jesus. The Jews waited for His coming, hoped in the promises of a faithful Heavenly Father, fulfilled two thousand years ago, and we remember that coming and now we wait for His Second Coming, when “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
And it just gets better. Revelation 22 reads:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon.”
That, friends, is our hope. Jesus is coming soon. We enjoy this Advent seasons, reveling in God’s plan brought about in the person of Christ, born as a Baby in a manger in Bethlehem, but without the future hope, that living hope, that hope of something more, this season is meaningless. The Baby Jesus means nothing without the hope that comes from Jesus’s death and resurrection. And His death and resurrection mean nothing to us if there isn’t the hope of a future resurrection.
Hope. What a beautiful word.