Today, the season of Advent begins. It is a time to anticipate, in memory, the arrival of Christ into the world as the baby Jesus, to look forward to Christ coming again, and to contemplate the risen and ascended Lord meeting us in the present. In this regard, the Advent wreath is a powerful symbol. The circle of the wreath represents eternal life, and the unbrokenness of God’s presence and promise. Each week an additional candle is lit, so that on the fourth Sunday, all candles burn symbolizing hope, peace, joy, and love. This Sunday, we will begin by lighting the candle of hope.
As we all know, the impact of local flooding has been devastating. Four people died, thousands of livestock perished, property has been destroyed, and people have been cut off and displaced.
The ancient Israelites also moved through perilous and tragic times. It was during these hard times that the prophets spoke to proclaim hope to the people. This was not a “cheer up” message invoking the power of positive thinking, but a message of hope rooted in God’s promise that a Saviour would come into the world. It was a message of hope intended to carry the people through hardship.
As the candle of hope is lit, I would encourage you to contemplate the meaning of hope that God gives, which is different from the hope offered by the world. If you find hope fading, look upon the candle to remind yourself that true hope is not something that is generated within, but comes from outside of yourself, through the Holy Spirit. Read passages from Holy Scripture which embody this message of God’s hope. These include, but are not limited to, Isaiah 9: 2; Isaiah 40: 31; Jeremiah 19: 11; Psalm 18:1; Psalm 33: 18; Psalm 71: 14; 1 Peter:1:13; 1 Peter 5: 10; 1 Thessalonians 1: 3; Colossians 1: 2-7. Ephesians 1: 8.
Countless people testify to the power of God’s hope. As the days get shorter and ever darker, the brightness of the candle of hope reminds us that nothing can extinguish God’s promises.