Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent, the season in the church where we prepare our hearts and lives to receive Christ. During the season of Advent, most churches incorporate an Advent wreath into their worship. There are five candles, each standing for one of the important components of Advent. The candle on the first Sunday of Advent stands for hope.
Emily Dickinson wrote a beautiful poem about hope. Here is the first stanza:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all.
As the first candle was lit yesterday, and as I listened to the sermon, I thought about the role hope plays in our lives. Hope is a powerful emotion. It keeps us going when things seem darkest. We do not despair as long as we have hope: hope for a better tomorrow, hope that things will improve, hope that as long as we are alive and trying there will be a solution. When we are hardest hit by the death of a loved one, we hang on to hope that we will see them again in heaven.
We have so many sayings about hope that some of them have turned into cliches. “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” “The light at the end of the tunnel.” Hope keeps love alive and keeps us alive.
And there are many Bible verses that promote hope. Here are two of my favorites: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13. I love this verse because it reminds us we serve a God of hope and when we live in the Holy Spirit we overflow with hope.
My second favorite verse about hope is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We do not see the things the we hope for – they belong to the realm of not yet – but we can have confidence in them. We do not believe with our eyes but with our hearts. “Faith is believing even when common sense tells you not to” (a line from one of my favorite Christmas movies). And what is faith but the hope that God will make a way even when we do not see a way.
Hope is a powerful and important thing for us in the world we face today. When we are tempted to give up or when we are discouraged, we have to hold on to hope.