1st Sunday of Advent- HOPE
I hope this letter finds you in Thanksgiving after-glow. After a painfully quiet Thanksgiving 2020, many of us were able to gather with family and friends this year. The Bell house was blessed with wonderful chaos- our whole family gathered around one table! But then, did you notice? Even before we digested the feast, Christmas is upon us… decorations in the stores, Christmas music on our favorite radio station, sale upon sale upon sale to draw us into yet another American Christmas of over-spending. Like many of you, I am overwhelmed with the commercialism of it all. I’m not quite ready for Christmas… and yet, isn’t that what Advent is all about… taking time to get ready? Four Sundays, twenty-eight days to prepare to welcome the Christ Child in new and deeper ways. I think I am going to need all twenty-eight days and every one of those four Sundays, not to shop and decorate, but to stop long enough for God to open my heart a bit more to welcome the Savior.
The four Sundays of Advent- Hope… Peace… Joy… Love… This week is the week of Hope. Webster’s Dictionary defines hope- to expect with confidence, to cherish with anticipation, an optimistic state of mind expecting a positive outcome. Yet when we look at the world around us, hope seems to be hard to find. Is there any hope that our politicians will learn to work together for the common good? Is there any hope that our nation will ever become a truly equitable society? Is there any hope for our city torn by gun violence? As yet another COVID variant rears its ugly head, is there any hope that we will one day emerge from this pandemic? For some of us the struggle to find hope hits closer to home. Where is hope to be found in the midst of a battle with cancer? Where is hope in a broken relationship? Where is hope in the struggle with depression and addiction? Where is hope…???
OK, I know I am starting to sound like Job… Do you remember Job’s story? Job was a successful man with a home and a business, a wife, and many children. He was enjoying the good of life, when all that good was taken away… first his health and then his home and his children… and finally, one by one his friends turned away. Job cries out, “Where is my hope- who can see any hope for me?” (Job 17:15) In another Bible story, we see Ruth struggling to find hope after she loses her husband and her sons. She encourages her daughters-in-law to return to their parents that they might find hope in a new future, but she sees no hope for herself. Sometimes we are like Job and Ruth, unable to see beyond the moment to the hope and future God has in mind. At times we dare to “wish”… but a wish is just a feeble desire. Wouldn’t it be nice if… That “if” in our wish lacks the confidence and anticipation of hope. We sing, “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” It is a lovely sentiment, but often we wonder what real power we have to make that wish come true.
So, where do we find hope in the middle of a pandemic, in a divided nation, in a world that is increasingly more violent and profane? Where do we find hope as we stand helpless while a loved one is hurting? Where to we find hope as the darkness seems to grow? The season of Advent is pointing us to the only answer that has stood the test of time… Jesus the Christ. The writer of Hebrews declares, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23) The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as “hope that is an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”(Hebrews 6:19) Paul writes, “Hope does not disappoint us because God is pouring His love into our hearts.” (Romans 5:5) Notice that hope is found in the person of Jesus not in any particular outcome or resolution. Our hope is built not on the cure for cancer, or a successful vaccine, or an end to gun violence… our hope is built on nothing less than the One who conquered death for us. In the midst of his suffering, Job declared, “I know my Redeemer lives!” The Redeemer is the light of the world. He is our strength. He is our joy. This Advent we can be a people of hope because the Savior of the world has come!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Standing with you in His hope,
Posted in From The Pastor