Lighting The Candle Of Hope

My church lights a candle each week of Advent. The first candle is the candle of hope. I would like to share my reflections on hope. My intention is that my words will not only help you celebrate the Advent season, but live the season deep in your heart and to bring it into the New Year.

I believe we begin with hope, because life so often feels hopeless and without meaning, but the message of God says that in the darkest and bleakest moment hope manifests in the very things Jesus did and does for us. Jesus born in a manger, spent his life with the poor and lost, stood against the powers of this world and spoke truth to tragedy and injustice, he died naked and shivering on a cross to reconcile all of creation to God and calls to each and everyone to come back to God. All of this is done to glorify God. The hope Jesus gives can never be quenched by this world, no matter what this world heaps on us Jesus throws it off and leads us into the light and grace of God, our Father.

Let’s listen to what the bible has to say to us about hope.

2 Corinthians: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Titus 2: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Romans 5: And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

These bible verses and others like them point us to an unwavering and boundless hope, not just in the next life, but also in this life. Through Jesus, we have an endless hope in the goodness of life and we are called to live life to its fullest for the glory of God. It’s easy to have this hope when life is easy, but when life is hard and things are piling on top of us this we begin to wonder if the gospel of grace is a happy little story we are told merely to get us to do the things others would have us do.

When I trust Jesus even in my darkest moments I have the power to live and push towards the kind of life I want. I know I am not perfect; I stumble and fall, but I know that I am a better person because of Jesus. I am on the cusp of a grand adventure. I want my life and words to point others to the love and grace of God found in Jesus Christ. So, this Christmas let us contemplate the hope of the glory of God. The message of this season is that in the darkest moments of life a light shines hope into our lives and will transform the most tragic events of our life into blessings from God. This world cannot offer you anything that will ever compare to the hope that is offered through Jesus Christ. This world will try to hinder you from accepting the grace and love of God, but nothing can compare to the gospel. We need not earn it. Jesus has accomplished it. We just respond to what God is already up to in our lives.

C.S. Lewis: “Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. We do not want to merely “see” beauty–though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else, which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

We have reason to hope, even when all seems lost, we have the hope that things well be better and if we remain faithful, we will get through it and no matter how tough life gets life truly is wonderful. I was at the library today and it hit me that life is good. This realization wasn’t about things or events in my life, but the overall sense that we live in a friendly universe that isn’t plotting against us but for us. Bad things exist and happen to us, evil is all too real. Yet, this world is not all bad, wonderful pockets of goodness surround us. Someone once said that if we are going through hell to keep going.

Anne Frank wrote, “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

What does it look like to put flesh on this hope?

Here’s a little story:

I cashier at a store and at this store we have something called ‘The Angel Tree’, which is designed to give a Christmas to children who wouldn’t have a Christmas otherwise. One day three girls, I say girls but they were about my age, came through my line they were purchasing a large amount of girl toys and girl winter wear. One of them excitedly said, “I’m going to take a picture.” She whipped out her smart phone and after clicking a photo asked that I put them in a large sack, because they were for ‘The Angel Tree.’ The three of them were giddy with excitement; their eyes glimmered with the hope of the season. They were giving to a child they didn’t know and that brought them closer to the hope of the season. I don’t know why they were doing it. Maybe it was on whim or because religion told them to, but I like to think that they did it, because the spirit came into their hearts when they saw the tree and the ornaments listing the wish list of this child who wasn’t going to have a Christmas if not for the kindness of strangers.

That’s what it means to put flesh on the hope of Jesus, the hope of the glory of God. Whether these three girls knew it or not their gesture was bringing a little more of God into our world, I hope those gifts will bring a smile to that child’s face and warmth to her heart and soul.    

For hope to mean anything, we must hope in the hopeless. Stephen King: “Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” As Paul writes in Romans 15: 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.

May God help us to always to see the good, know the hope of the glory of God, and love everyone and imitate Jesus, our Lord and Savior in our lives

Amen

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1 Comment

  1. Another beautiful writing, thank you Robert

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