Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Candle of Hope
Today is the beginning of Advent. In just a few minutes, my husband and I will light the Candle of Hope and read some appropriate scriptures (Lam. 3:21-26; Isa. 11:1-10; Luke 1:26-38; Isa. 7:10-14; and Matt. 1:18-24).
I've come to love Advent. I love that it takes me away from the commercialization of Christmas and shifts my focus to the purpose of the season. We've celebrated it for 7 years now, and each year I find myself more eager for the Christmas season to arrive. I love the lights and decorations, the time with family and friends, the slower pace ... but mainly I love the focus of Advent. We read a Scripture each day and on each Sunday during Advent, there is a special emphasis. Today's emphasis: Hope.
What a significant word. It speaks of promise and future and a brighter tomorrow. Our current president made it one of the two key words of his campaign. Its opposite, hopeless, is one of the most despairing emotions to encounter. Doctors know what happens when a patient gives up hope: Death. A hospital chaplain once told me what he learned from a heart surgeon: "I've had patients who thought they would live but died; but I've never once had a patient that thought they would die that lived." WOW.
This morning at church we sang "Days of Elijah" (above). What a perfect song for the first Sunday of Advent. The song was written in Northern Ireland during a time of struggle for that part of the world. Songwriter Robin Mark prayed to God for revelation about what was happening in what seemed like a hopeless situation. God dropped into his heart "These are the days of Elijah". He realized that underneath the apparent hopelessness God was at work - and there was still a future hope to anticipate.
The days of hopelessness that pained Robin Mark about his native Ireland were not unlike the days before Jesus appeared. God hadn't spoken through prophets for 400 years. Talk about a famine of the word of God, as Amos prophesied. The nation of Israel had lost its political power and was under Roman rule. There was darkness and hopelessness throughout the land. Yet Jesus was born, and light came into darkness. Hope came into hopelessness.
It's still true today. Advent reminds me that He came as a child, grew into a man, suffered and died for our sins, was resurrected, and lives forevermore. He will come again. But for now, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. Getting involved in our lives. Offering hope in His outstretched, nail-scarred hands.
Behold, He comes.