Advent Week 1 – The Candle of Hope

Advent is not only a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus, but one where we actively participate in the practice of waiting, experiencing the anticipation and longing of those waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. This waiting mirrors our own longing and anticipation of the second coming of Christ as King to a world that is just at full of darkness and in need of God’s kingdom as first century Israel. 

This year has given us all a greater understanding of what it means to long for light in the darkness of sickness, death, racial injustice, and division. More than in many years in recent memory, this year Advent is situated in uncertainty.

As we look back on the faithfulness of God to send the long awaited Messiah, we look toward his future return with anticipation. We find hope in the darkness. Peace in uncertainty. Joy in spite of grief. Love in the midst of brokenness.

This Advent we wait and we remember the promises of God that have been fulfilled and those that are to come. We situate ourselves in the reality of the here, but not yet kingdom of God. 

Waiting is often associated with darkness, so it is fitting that Advent begins in the dark. Each week the darkness gradually dissipates as we light another candle in anticipation of Jesus’ birth and of his return. As we look at the fulfillment of Jesus’ first coming into darkness, each week represented by the lighting of candles, we look toward his return when the hope, peace, joy, and love his birth brought will be fully and completely established on earth. Come into our darkness, Immanuel, light of the world. 

Hope (Week 1 – Nov 29) 

Isaiah 9:1-7, Luke 2:25-38, Revelation 5 

The process of waiting is rarely enjoyable. It is often uncomfortable, uncertain, and frustrating. Waiting feels passive, too much like inaction. Yet waiting is an important aspect of faith as followers of Jesus. It is a time of preparation, of drawing close to God, actively anticipating the movement of God. To wait is to choose hope regardless of circumstances. Hope looks back at the faithfulness of God in order to trust God for the future in our present reality. Waiting cultivates trust that what God has promised, God is faithful to do. Waiting is being confident in God’s love and truth, having hope in the fruition of God’s promises.

God’s people have continually been called to hope in the midst of times of darkness when the future is uncertain and it is easy to question God’s love and faithfulness. The period of Israel’s  history when God spoke through the prophets was a time of particular darkness. It was marked by upheaval when the nation was plagued by division, self-destruction and on the cusp of exile. Still, God gave them the hope of redemption and restoration through the coming Messiah. 

Israel was still waiting for the promised Messiah as seen through Simeon and Anna, who faithfully waited, relying on their hope during a time of uncertainty. It had been many years since Israel had collectively heard from God through the prophets and the nation was living under Roman rule. Yet they had confidence in the hope that sustained their waiting.

Simeon was told that he would live to see the Messiah. He held on with hope to this promise, continuing to worship at the Temple and listening to guidance from the Holy Spirit who was with him. When the Messiah was revealed to him in the form of Jesus, he testified to the fulfillment of God’s promise, blessing Jesus and his parents. Similarly, Anna, a childless widow, devoted her life to God, seeking God through service in the Temple. She had hope in God in spite of her circumstances as someone vulnerable in a culture where security for women was found through marriage and ability to bear children. In her devotion, Anna was blessed to witness the promise of the Messiah in the flesh. We see the joy of what faithful waiting is through the example of Simeon and Anna, whose hope in God sustained their lives. 

As we look back on the faithfulness of God to send the long promised Messiah, we in hope, look to the future promise of Jesus’ return. This can only happen because Jesus is the one worthy to break the seals of the scrolls, a symbol in Revelation 5 of the Old Testament message of the coming kingdom. It is only the death and resurrection of Jesus, symbolized here as the slain Lamb, that all obstacles standing in the way of the kingdom will be vanquished, ushering in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ reign as King. We anticipate this coming Lamb with hope. As we wait for the final completion we have hope in this Lamb who is worthy to fulfill the Old Testament promise because of the redemptive act of his death and resurrection who will one day return to bring the kingdom into its fullness. Here in Revelation 5, we get a glimpse of the kingdom we are waiting for: one where the redeemed from every tribe and nation, along with the angels, praise the Lamb and take part in the reign of Christ. The sacrifice of the Lamb, which has already come to pass, guarantees the future. Therefore we have hope!

In the midst of our own darkness, our own uncertainty, we are invited to have a posture of anticipation in this time of Advent. We remember the expectation Israel had for the coming Messiah in their reality of upheaval and the fulfillment of this promise in the birth of Jesus. We look toward the return of Jesus, the slain and risen Lamb, who will return as Messiah and King to fully establish his kingdom. 

Reflection:
What is something you are currently waiting for? 
What emotions surround this time of waiting?
Do you find it challenging to find hope while you are waiting? If so, why?
Action: 
This week make a list of things that bring you hope and things that you are waiting for. How do these lists relate? 

Prayer:

Father, Son and Spirit, I enter this time of expectant waiting, putting my hope, my confidence in your faithfulness. I lament the pain of my present circumstances while I hope in the Lamb, the worthy one who came to redeem me through his death and resurrection, ushering in your kingdom to the world. It is not always easy to see through the darkness, but as I move through this time of Advent I commit to daily putting my hope in your promises, looking back at the promises already fulfilled and toward the future promises, knowing you are always faithful. I long for the day when people from all nations worship the reigning Lamb. I have confidence that you are in this time of waiting. In your name, Amen.

Light Hope candle (purple).

Devotional written by MCC Staff Member Amy Corriher