Psalms 102; 148, Isaiah 3:1-4:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Luke 20:41-21:4
As we approach the end of this first week of Advent, let’s reflect on its theme of Hope. This coming Sunday anyone with an Advent wreath will light the second Advent candle, but they will also re-light the Hope candle, and keep lighting it each week until they light the Christ candle.
One of the joys of Advent is knowing exactly when Christ will arrive – the date is already marked on our calendars. Today’s scriptures from Isaiah, 1 Thessalonians, and Luke all focus on people awaiting their own day of deliverance, but waiting without a clear end date. Though time and circumstance differed, each of these writers warned that in the meantime, things would get tougher – maybe even terrible. Even through none of them could name a specific day, all were confident the day of reckoning would indeed come.
Still we wait. We watch things get better in some areas and worse in others. We know from the past that the future holds both glory and terror. Wars begin and end. Diseases appear and disappear. Hungry people are fed, and different people begin to starve. Nothing in the world is new, yet we are made new in Christ. How do we maintain Hope in Christ’s promises for a new and better kingdom in the face of such contradiction?
Our relationship with Hope must evolve. If faith maps our lives, Hope is no longer a pushpin marking some dream destination, but a bright road we must travel. When we light a candle of Hope – by visiting a sick friend, working for equality, feeding the hungry – God’s kingdom exists wherever the light of those candles shines. Like the light of a distant star, Hope is something we observe in the present, but also evidence of the past and the future.
The day we are waiting for is always today. If we are living in relationship with God, does it really matter when Christ returns? If knowing a date changes how we live, we live not in Hope, but desperation. It is in the act of lighting the candle – in letting the Hope of Christ illuminate our hearts – that Christ returns again and again.
Comfort: Hope exists now.
Challenge: We all have something (or things) we’re putting off until the time is right, when realistically it may never be “right.” Find a way to take action as if the time is right now.
Prayer: Eternal God, I place my Hope in you, right now and always. Amen.
Discussion: What are you hoping for?
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