Week 1: Hope

Do you ever overwhelm yourself with Christmas activities? To the point you forget about Jesus’ birth until you’re sitting in a Christmas Eve service? I’ve been there more than I’d like to admit, but for the past few years I’ve been intentional about celebrating Advent in my home. I purchased a set of custom candle holders, lots of tealights, and I look forward to reading my Bible by candlelight every morning. Those lights represent hope, and the increasing light of the coming of my Jesus at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

words + photograph MAGGIE WATSON

In the beginning, God said, “Let there be light,” (Genesis 1:3). But sin messed everything up. Eventually, God chose a family to show His light to the rest of the world, but the family strayed from its purpose.

“They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness,” (Isaiah 8:21-22).

God’s people set up a kingdom on their own, and it divided. They were conquered twice and then exiled. They returned to their homeland with words of hope from the prophets:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined,” (Isaiah 9:2).

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness,” (Isaiah 42:6-7).

But the fledgling priests of Malachi’s day complained that their salvation wasn’t coming as expected. They didn’t know how to return to the Lord (Malachi 3:7).

Then they experienced more than 400 years of silence. What a difficult time to hope!

But Jesus came. However, salvation was still not as expected. A child, not a CONQUEROR?!? (Isaiah 9:6)

At that time, God’s people were even more confused, but we know to rejoice! Light up all the Advent candles, folks! Jesus is the Light of the WORLD (John 8:12)! His life and sacrifice demonstrated that God so loved the WHOLE WORLD (John 3:16), and we can become part of God’s family, too (John 1:11-13). He came in an unexpected way, to make sure we could be adopted by faith. And it’s always been about faith – just ask Rahab and Ruth.

But where does that leave us? What does hope look like in our day? The world we live in is still messed up, and life does not pan out as we expect. The same is true now as it was in the Old Testament:

“And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil,” (John 3:19).

Our hope rests in the second Advent. Our day-to-day, year-to-year (and sometimes our decade-to-decade) don’t turn out as we plan, but we do know the end of the story. We become God’s light to this dark world (Matthew 5:14-16), and God’s word lights our way (Psalm 119:105). We are born again into a living hope to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-7).

Our hope. The light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb,” (Revelation 21:23). MW

Maggie Watson and her husband, George, are starting something new in 2022. George will be a chaplain in the U.S. Army, and Maggie will be discovering God’s plan of service for her as an Army wife.

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