A Thrill of Hope

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I watched intently as a young girl walked down the aisle to the front of our church, the long candleholder outstretched in front of her.  She made her way up the stairs, paused at the wreath, and walked back down the aisle.

The candle flickered.

Advent season is here, and it urges us to slow down.  To pause and remember.  To reflect on the past and anticipate the future.

I love the first candle.  Hope.  The confident expectation that God will keep His promises.

The brightness and merriment of the season sometimes camouflage our desperation for hope.  But the truth is, there will be an empty seat around someone’s table this year.  Gifts will be exchanged in hospital rooms.  Time will be split between homes.  And even if that’s not the case for you, I imagine there is something in your life or someone around you begging for hope.

Whether we’re spreading holiday cheer or just trying to survive the season, Advent is the reminder that we are a people grafted into a heritage of hope.

In the opening pages of Scripture, the promise was announced (Genesis 3:15).  Good news of great joy.  A Rescuer is coming.  The promise was reiterated to Abram – “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3).  Then David received the covenant.  “Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

The Old Testament is brimming with references to and prophecies of the Messiah.  It moves unmistakably toward Jesus, but there were, and still are, those who resist Him.

God promised the Messiah – a Rescuer, a Blessing, and a King – but the world said No.

Do we really need rescuing or a divine blessing?  And a King?  We’ve been resisting that for millennia.  The Israelites opted for a human king instead of God (1 Samuel 8:7).  Queen Athaliah nearly extinguished the royal line (2 Chronicles 22:10-12).  And King Herod had zero tolerance for rivals, which explains his heinous decree to kill all male children (Matthew 2:16).

Whether it’s out of fear or pride, ignorance or unbelief, or something else altogether, the world says a thousand Nos to every one of God’s promises.  They’re too good to be true.  Too big to be managed.  Too consuming to be embraced.

But one night a young woman went into labor, and nothing has ever been the same.  The inn was full, so she gave birth in a stable to a baby boy – God in the flesh.  His first cry was the authoritative Yes to all the world’s Nos.

Yes, God is who He claims to be.

Yes, God keeps His promises.

Yes, God is trustworthy.

As we journey through the Advent season, we’ll have to fight through the noise of the Nos to hear the Yes of hope.  The Nos of cynicism, the Nos borne from grief, the Nos that stem from anxiety – just because they sound true doesn’t mean they are true.

That baby in the manger grew up and lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we should’ve died, and came out of the grave in victory.  He always has been and always will be the only hope of the world.  And “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Yes, God is working everything together for His glory and our good.

Yes, God sees, knows, and cares.

Yes, God redeems and restores.

Yes, God is with us and for us.

Yes, God’s way is perfect.

Yes, He’s coming again.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”  Let’s fall on our knees.

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