Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him. ~Psalm 62:5
Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent. Per my post on Advent Conspiracy, I’m trying to make this Christmas a little less crazy and a little more focused. To that end, we put together an Advent wreath so our family will pause each Sunday evening for a time of mini-worship. (Side note: Looking for something else, I happened upon a box of Advent candles at AC Moore. They even sell wreaths with the candle holders built right in. Who knew?! The whole thing cost less than seven dollars and took moments to put together.)
The first candle of Advent stands for hope.
Job and Psalms are some of the most anguish-filled books in the Bible. Even so, the word “hope” is mentioned more in them than the rest of the Old Testament. Obviously the writers of these books suffered greatly. They were oppressed physically and spiritually. They had experienced a stripping away that left them naked and broken. Yet, despite their sadness and circumstance, they knew in the deepest parts of their soul, their hope for the future was found in the Lord. We talk about the patience of Job; perhaps we should focus on the hope of Job.
To us today, the Old Testament can look like a dusty old book. It’s hard to relate to because life isn’t like that anymore. That was then, this is now.
I think times may change but the human experience doesn’t. Just look around.
We suffer greatly through abuse, addiction, a graceless society, war and terrorism. We’re oppressed physically and spiritually through cancer, loneliness, depression, materialism and sexual immorality. We’ve experienced stripping away through our prodigal children, evaporating finances, unemployment, fractured relationships, illness and death.
Each morning the paper tells of so much suffering and evil not only around the world, but close to home. At its best, this world doesn’t make sense. And at its worst, it can seem hopeless. It’s easy to wonder where God is. Does He see? Does He care?
God answered these age-old questions with one simple answer: Jesus. Jesus’ coming reveals the specific glory for which the ancient hoped for, but couldn’t name. He who was there at the beginning surrendered his infinite strength and power to become human “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corin. 5:21) The seemingly simple story of a baby in a manager changed all of human history.
Because of Jesus our hope is no longer vague or our future uncertain. Jesus bridged the chasm of sin that separated us from God. He gave us the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. And He gave us the promise of eternal life so that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” (Rom. 8:18)
So, when I look at this week’s Advent candle I truly see hope.
HOPE that “he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion.” even when it’s hard to see the evidence. (Phil. 1:6a)
HOPE that His grace is sufficient for me, not in spite of, but because of my weakness. (2 Corin. 12:9)
HOPE that no matter how I will fail as a parent, God has plans for my children— "plans to prosper [them] and not to harm [them], plans to give [them] hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)
HOPE that regardless of the leadership of our government and political happenings my future is secure because my citizenship isn't here, it is in heaven. (Eph 2:19)
HOPE that God will “richly provide us with everything for our enjoyment” despite the fledging stock market, crumbling financial institutions and increasing unemployment. (1 Tim. 6:17)
HOPE that the battle over evil was fought and won by Jesus on the cross and no amount evil doings in this world can change that. Satan has received his judgement. (1 Corin. 15:57, Rev. 20)
And HOPE that, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” for “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Phil. 1:21; Rom. 6:23)
Lord, even though it can sometimes seem there’s no hope in this hopeless world, thank you for sending your Son. Through Him “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Heb. 6:19)