Advent 1: The Candle of Hope

And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:12-13 NRSV)

During worship on Sunday, November 29, we marked the first Sunday of Advent by lighting the first candle, the Candle of Hope. The season of Advent is a time of waiting, anticipating and preparing for the birth of the Christ-child at Christmas. This is not a passive, continually looking-at-our-watches (or calendars) kind of waiting, but an active, prayerful, opening-of-our-hearts kind of waiting. It is a holy time for looking inward to assess our readiness to receive anew the gift of God’s love incarnate, a gift that our faith assures us will come when the time is ready.

The text above comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. The first verse takes us back to the prophet Isaiah whose words have been understood to foretell the coming of Christ, the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11). Paul is affirming that in Jesus the promise has been fulfilled: in him we shall find hope. This is the promise of Advent. In Jesus the Christ, the One whose coming we await, we shall find hope.

And then, in one of my very favorite passages, Paul offers these words of blessing: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our God is a God of Hope with a capital H, a God whose Holy Spirit can empower us to abound in Hope.

So, the good news for today is that when it feels as if living through this pandemic has taken or will take away all hope, we are invited to hear again the promise of Advent: In the One who is coming we shall find hope. Let us patiently, prayerfully open our hearts to receive the gift of love and hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.

Prayer Focus:
Hope for a Vaccine

Healing God: We wait with hope for a vaccine that will defeat the virus that is raging among us. Direct the designers and researchers who are working toward solutions. Guide the leaders who will be charged with efficient, effective, and equitable distribution of vaccines as they become available. In Jesus’ name. Amen.