T ODAY IS the first Sunday of Advent. As we heard from our Advent readers, the first candle is the candle of hope.
For us, hope is like a wish. I hope I get a shiny new toy for Christmas. If you already know you are going to get a shiny new toy, then hope takes on a different meaning. A certain expectancy.
In the New Testament, hope is promised expectancy. Confident trust. The opposite of hope is fear. Hope is firm belief. Hope is directed toward God. Hope requires trust. Ultimately, we are encouraged to put our hope in God and trust that he will deliver.
The culmination of this hope and trust in God’s deliverance will be found in the hope of the coming Messiah. The Messiah will come and deliver Israel. The Anointed One will bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. He will be God with us. “In his name the nations will put their hope.” So says Matthew, who quotes from Isaiah. As proclaimed in our candle reading, Jesus has come and he is our hope.
This is a different from what we hear outside the church. We hear put your hope and trust in government. We are told to trust in the economy. Or technology. Or education. Or hard work. We’re told to put our hope and trust in humanity. None of these are bad, just not worthy of our hope and trust. The Bible warns about putting trust in the false hopes and idols of the world. What are clues that we’re putting trust in false hope?
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YOU KNOW that you are trusting a false hope if it promises to solve all your problems. False hope is a hope that has no meaningful basis in reality. Solutions that are cure-alls for all life’s illnesses, pains, struggles, are not real solutions.
God, on the other hand, does not promise to solve all of our problems. God does not promise that you will never suffer in this life. Simply read the Scriptures. Again and again, we are warned that we will endure trials and suffering in our faith. Jesus faced ridicule. Jesus suffered. Jesus experienced grief. Jesus suffered. Jesus died. Never does God promise an easy life. What God does promise is that he will be beside us through our struggles. He gives us hope for the future.
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SECONDLY, YOU KNOW that you are trusting a false hope if your hope does not rely upon God. If God is not a part of the equation, then you are trusting a false hope. Who are you looking to ultimately deliver you: technology, achievements, family, or the government? These are not bad things in themselves but they will not save you apart from God. Without God as a part of the equation, these will ultimately fail.
In 1 Peter we read/hear that in Jesus Christ we have been given a living hope, not a dead or false hope, but a living hope. This is what God offers to us. In the hymn “My hope is built on nothing Less” we sing these words in verse 2:
When darkness veils his lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
In Hebrews, Jesus is referred to as our hope and our anchor. This hope [Jesus] … is a safe and secure anchor for our whole being … . Jesus is our living anchor. The early Christians when facing persecution and suffering knew Jesus was the only one reliable to see them through the storms of life. In the catacombs of Rome, where early Christians were buried, various early Christian symbols have been found. One of these symbols was the anchor, a symbol of hope. Jesus is the one that we can trust in our lives. He is our living hope.
In storms and trials — problems, challenges that will come — we have faithful trust (hope) in God through Jesus Christ his Son. So where are you in danger of drowning? What is it that seems like an overwhelming sea of despair? Do you feel adrift in a sea of hopelessness? What is your anchor in the high and stormy gale?
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LASTLY, YOU KNOW you’re trusting in false hope when you still live in fear. As I said at the beginning, the opposite of biblical hope is fear. Over and over, biblical hope is tied to “do not be afraid.”
In 1965, Charles Schulz, a devout Christian and creator of the Peanuts comic strip, was asked to create a Christmas special for CBS featuring the Peanuts characters. He agreed with one requirement, that they allow him to include the story of the birth of Jesus. The result is for the past 50-plus years, millions of people have watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and have heard the story of Jesus.
I read about a subtle action in this Christmas classic: Linus, a child who seems to have insecurities, always carries a security blanket with him. Linus never drops his blanket, except in this animated movie. While sharing the message of “what Christmas is all about,” Linus drops his blanket at the exact moment he says the words, “fear not!” In this seemingly innocent moment, Linus delivers a powerful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. “Fear not,” for Jesus is born. God with us is the anchor in life’s storms.
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Borrowed from Charlene M. Speer and ‘Christian Life Ministry’ on Facebook…
THE FIRST CANDLE on the Advent wreath represents hope because a living hope begins with a little child in a manger, a vulnerable, helpless little baby conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Mary and Joseph. Here hope began.
As this small child grew in stature and wisdom, hope grew. When he amazed others with his teachings, hope grew. As he performed miraculous signs and wonders, hope grew. When he gathered the broken and lost, hope grew. When he suffered and sacrificed himself upon a cross, hope grew.
He was raised from the dead, appeared before the disciples, and ascended to the right hand of God and guess what? Hope grew. One day, he shall come again to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. This is our living hope.
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DON’T PUT YOUR TRUST in the false hopes of the world, for they will only disappoint. Do not be afraid — put your hope in the living hope of God, Jesus Christ.