The Season of Advent: Hope

Advent means, waiting. I am waiting. Are you waiting? I overheard some of our children talking about gifts for Christmas. They were talking excitedly and with great anticipation about Christmas day. They are waiting, they are excited. Anticipation is in their thoughts and conversations. They’re ready! Bring it on! This is also how we should approach the advent season of waiting. We too are waiting as Christ has come and is coming still.

Before Jesus was born the world was in disarray, full of chaos and troubles.  People were looking for someone to solve all the problems they were experiencing.  Some looked for a great military leader, some for a politician to make everything ok.  Sound familiar? 

Others spoke of a “Messiah,” which means liberator, someone to set them free.  People were seeking hope. John the Baptist prepared those around him for the coming of the Messiah and gave people hope:

John the Baptist Prepares the Way: Mark 1:1-8

1The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,who will prepare your way”3“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord,make straight paths for him.’ ”

4And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John the Baptist was different. He stood out to the point that people went out to hear him. I imagine he was a burly and manly guy who ate bugs and wore clothing of animals he’d killed. He also was sharp tongued and shot from the hip when he addressed his critics. People were drawn to John the Baptist and were so convinced of what he said that they responded in repentance and baptism.

To repent is to turn away; we repent by turning away from our own way, our own selfish desires and commit to walk in God’s ways. People confessed their sins, repented and were baptized by John. Baptism is the mark of a believer, a Christian, a follower of Jesus. The symbolic meaning of baptism is washing away of confessed sin and a renewed commitment to live in God’s ways; God makes the person what the Bible calls, “a new creation.” We can all use newness can’t we? We can all benefit from confession, release, forgiveness and a new direction to walk in ways that liberate and do not bind us, oppress us or hold us captive. Baptism is standing before the world declaring that I belong to God and commit to walk in God’s ways. Public washing away of sin and committing to live God’s way is the meaning of baptism.

There is hope. There’s hope for today and hope for tomorrow as we walk along in this world full of troubles. Today we too can confess, repent and be renewed.

Jesus’ coming into the world wasn’t what people expected.  He was born in a barn.  Barns are dirty. There wasn’t a place for him.  Everything was full.  He wasn’t welcome.  Born in a manger, a stable, a barn, Jesus brought Hope into the world in the most unexpected place.  Jesus didn’t come seeking fame and fortune. He came quietly and humbly, almost unnoticed. Ironically the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is born like the lowest of the low. God has a way of making things right through irony like when Jesus says in Matthew 20:16, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” God does not see and judge as the world does and this gives me great Hope!

Hope is something we can all use a giant dose of!  One way to celebrate this is by using an Advent Wreath.

Advent Wreath

I enjoy lighting candles of an advent wreath each Advent season. The 5 candles symbolize Hope – Peace – Joy – Love – Christ.

The advent wreath holds within it deep symbolism with a long history that began among Lutheran Christians in Germany. 

Symbols within the Advent Wreath – circle (eternity), evergreen (eternal life), crown (King), holly (crown of thorns), red berries (blood Jesus shed for us), the purple candles (royalty), the pink candle (joy), the white candle (Jesus Christ, purity, sinless), the candles together (light coming into darkness)

Jesus Said in John 20:31 (NIV)

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

and in John 16:33 (NIV)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

May God grant us the Hope we need this Advent season. May we be so full of Hope, the kind God gives that we spill it over onto others as John the Baptist did!

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