“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” — Luke 2:28-32
Wreath Directions: Light all three purple candles.
Read Aloud: Isaiah 40:1-11; Luke 2:22-35
Suggested Carol: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Hope is a huge concept that dictates how people live their lives, whether a Christian or not. Those with hope live with the belief that circumstances and people can change. Self- help and outside-help are often called into play to change the lives and circumstances of the person with hope. Essentially, hope is an enabler of change. For those without hope, however, bitterness and resignation are rules of the day. Everything’s bad and it ain’t gonna change. Same with everyone. They ain’t gonna change, either. Someone without hope is resigned to fate, living to see what happens to them next instead of living to create what’s next.
But is hope always a good thing? Are there times when hope works against the soul, against the heart? In the case of a missing person, the searcher just wants to know something. Where are they? Are they alive? Are they…dead? Anything. The searcher can hope and hope and hope the person is alive but what happens when the missing a.) never shows up, or b.) is found dead? Hope seemed like a futile exercise then, doesn’t it? So is it better to know definitively than not know? To have an answer than wait in silence?
Herein lies the difference between human hope and biblical hope. Human hope knows nothing. It’s guesswork. It is based on well wishing and not given fact. This doesn’t make it bad. It just doesn’t make it reliable.
Biblical hope, on the other hand, has God at its foundation and is based on promised certainty, not well wishes. It’s anticipation of a given, an anticipation that produces perseverance through difficulty and joy in fulfillment (Rom 5:1-5). You see, if God says something will happen, whether a blessing for obedience or the end of the world, hope kicks in until that promise comes true. If He says comfort will come to those who grieve in Him, hope kicks in until that comfort comes. If He says the dead will not sleep forever but resurrection will come with a reuniting in heaven, then hope kicks in until that day comes. When He says all who have faith in Christ have been given eternal life, we hope in that promise and live according to that hope.
In essence, the Christian holds on to hope like a baby’s blanket. God says, we hope, then God delivers. We don’t always see Him deliver fulfillment to every hope during our lives on earth. Some hopes are “far-future” hopes, like resurrection, end of the world, and, sometimes, vengeance on enemies. But during our lives, we see Him deliver on day-to-day hopes. We always have our daily bread, we always have grace when we mess up, we always have an audience with our King in prayer or praise, and many more things. And we can always hope in the character of God when society pressures us to defame Him.
Human hope is a good thing because it allows us to change and grow. Losing hope causes us to turn to stone. Biblical hope is a great thing because it is grounded in the promises of God and will always find its fulfillment in His timing. Human hope leaves room for the possibility of change but it can also disappoint if change doesn’t happen. Biblical hope assures that there will be change. It does not disappoint. Hold on to hope!
This week’s prayer is:
“Our Father in heaven, we light this candle to thank You for the hope of salvation that we have in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You for His atoning blood, shed on the cross for our sins, and that through His resurrection we might have life in His name. We thank You for the hope found in His first coming and we grab hold of the hope of His return. It is in His holy name we pray. Amen.”