Advent meditations: week 1 – hope

Each week of Advent, I will be posting meditations based on that week’s theme of Advent readings. I would love for you to join in as well! Let us together celebrate Christ who brings hope, peace, joy, and love.

First of all – hope. We began with these beautiful verses in Isaiah 40:1-5. A few phrases that stood out to me:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to [her] and cry to her that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned …” [English Standard Version]

What does it mean for her warfare to end? Christ is coming: He is bringing peace and reconciliation — and that will flow from a redeemed relationship with God. (Though different than they imagined – not an end to political warfare.) Lord, remind me that my warfare has ended. I have nothing to prove or to win or to defend … You are my peace and my identity.

And then to notice what hope feels like, we read Psalm 42.

“But each day the Lord pour his unfailing love upon me,

and through each night I sing his songs,

praying to God who gives me life.” [New Living Translation]

Hope means thirsting, panting for God – the living God. In the midst of feeling downcast, I hope in God (despite the turmoil of my emotions). Hope is to praise God as my salvation; it is to remember HIS steadfast love. It includes crying for relief from the enemy’s oppression — not wanting to believe the enemy’s taunts of “where is your God?” Summary: In the midst of feeling downcast, there is hope to be found in God — if I remember to look upon Him!

How does Romans 8:18-27 add to our definition of hope? We see that not only we ourselves, but also all creation is hoping and even groaning for full redemption that Jesus Christ will bring. We wait eagerly; hoping for what we don’t yet see; waiting for it with patience (and the Spirit helps us in waiting, believing, patience, hope). Hope transforms present suffering into future glory. The Spirit intercedes for us while we wait and hope and groan. “Wait/waiting” is used twice; “groaning” is repeated three times; “hope” is repeated six times. And who are the subjects of all of this waiting/hoping/groaning? Creation (repeated 5 times); the Spirit/God (repeated 8 times); and WE are (repeated 12 times). This Advent passage makes it clear that even after Christ’s first incarnation, we are still hoping for his second (and final) coming – for the end of suffering and the revealing of glory.

Isaiah 11:1-11 paints the picture of that for which we hope. When the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, all hurt and destruction is banished. And to know the Lord fully means that we will not destroy others or his creation. Who will bring this hope and life-giving knowledge? “A shoot from Jesse” on whom will rest the Spirit of the Lord: of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. One clothed with righteousness and faithfulness. And the “remnant” [those who have hoped in Him] will be recovered from the ends of the earth [raised to new life].

Hebrews 6:13-20 shows an example of this hope in action.

“And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.”

This is quite different than the way I wait! Lord, help me to have in view your promises and for those to be sweet enough to me that I will patiently wait, even against all odds. That because I’ve fled for refuge to You, the God who promises (and doesn’t lie), that I would have strong encouragement to hold fast to hope. That I, too, will go where our forerunner, Jesus Christ, has gone.

I close this week’s meditations with a thought from Psalm 33: I am to hope in the steadfast love of God — to turn to Him in distress and to trust that God sees and will deliver. And then to have a glad heart as I see Him do this — to say with the Psalmist,

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

Isaiah 35 is tomorrow’s meditation … so I will let you add your meditations for that.

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