Amazingly, last Sunday marked the beginning of the Christmas Season, also known as Advent. One of the many valuable symbols in the Christian tradition for this season is our use of the Advent Wreath. The first of five candles we light in this metaphor of life and the Christian faith is called the Prophet’s Candle, or the Candle of Hope.
Appraising the world realistically and in the face of difficulty, the biblical hope of this candle stands tall and shines boldly in the darkness. Not content merely to wish, hope rises with initiative offering positive alternatives and redemptive perspectives. This hope knows that justice is not illusory but is the clear possibility of God’s presence among us. Such reassurance is especially valuable for today.
The prophets saw in Israel a hope for humanity, God’s dream offered in new ways. Called to rise with fresh potential in Exodus, unshackled for blessings in Deuteronomy, implored to justice in Micah, encouraged to bloom where planted in Jeremiah, prepared for widened community in Isaiah, this hope was far broader than first imagined. Incarnated in Jesus, the hope of old breathed new life into a disillusioned past just as it now can enliven the embers of a confusing present.
Biblical hope, this power-filled word we claim in Advent’s first week necessitates our response. Like its other partners in biblical imperatives, hope invokes not only what can be, but what should be. It summons love into the equation of sacred interaction, it invokes peace as the partner confronting all that might be; it stands with justice, entices joy, enhances vision, strengthens commitment, enlivens passion, broadens fortitude, deepens courage.
So the hope of Advent offers change to circumstances otherwise mired in complexity, complicated by fear, derailed by ignorance or stymied by anger. Then and now, through word, deed and transformation, Jesus joins the insufficiencies of all our lives in a broadened force of bold assurance: we are not alone; we are not without. Hope lives, flickering in the darkness, the first of the five candles, alone now, but preparing the glad and shining union of love, joy, peace – and the coming of Jesus.
May your Christmas season this year be one filled with a living hope that exceeds your best imaginings.
A Prayer for December
Surprise me this month, O God. Help me to see beyond my busyness, past the sales pitches, behind the decorations and around the distractions. Let me see what is real and true and right and good. Encourage me with a new sense of possibility. In spite of obstacles and regardless of what lies ahead, give me a steadfast hope that blossoms into the love, joy and peace given to us all in the birth of Jesus. Amen.