Welcome to Advent, the start of the liturgical year. I always think of Christmas as the end of the year, but really, it’s just the beginning.
We start the season of Advent by lighting a candle for hope.
At our home here’s how that looked: My parents came over for dinner last night and helped us decorate our Christmas tree. We held an impromptu Advent candle lighting service. My house was a little cleaner than usual, but my kitchen table was surrounded by the ordinary mess of too many craft supplies. I quickly picked a Scripture to read. My mom suggested singing a Christmas carol. It turned out that none of us knew all the words to the first verse of “The First Noel”. My daughter randomly ran from the table to get some bells. For some reason, some of the potatoes in my soup failed to get soft. My mother concluded our Advent lighting ceremony, by saying in a solemn voice: “God, we give you thanks that there is hope.”
And we all burst out laughing. We start the liturgical year with hope, but we all know too well how things will go. Sometimes having hope can seem comical. When things don’t go as planned, I am grateful for friends who laugh, and when the situation calls for it, cry with me. And I have to believe that even our clumsy attempts to honor God in our homes and with our lives are pleasing to God.
This morning at Sunday school, the story for the children was the three visitors who came to see Abraham and Sarah. Abraham believed the visitors when he heard that he and his wife would have a child in their later years, but Sarah laughed. I don’t blame Sarah at all for laughing. I know too well the pain of waiting month after month for a common enough little miracle. I think she laughed, not so much in disbelief, but to hide the pain of so many disappointments. I have always loved the story of Sarah and Abraham and how thousands of years later her descendants still tell the story of how much Sarah wanted a baby and how long she waited. Her story is also my story and I pray that my children will always know how I prayed for them, longed for them and hoped for them. What always fills me with awe about the story of Sarah and Abraham: through Jesus Christ our brother, we are living proof of the promise that God made to Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars.
We always start to prepare for Christmas with hope. By spending more time in the Word this Christmas, my hope is that no matter what happens, my heart will be focused on Jesus, my true hope in all circumstances. I’ve been following along a devotional, called appropriately enough: “Rooted in Hope.” I love how the Illustrated Faith Advent kits work together with the Scripture readings. Here’s the first of my Advent Bible Journaling Entries.
The St. Andrews Novena found its way into the margins of my Bible. Praying a Christmas novena is a new experience for me, but I’m enjoying this simple meditation on the night that Christ was born. I’ve been working in the “My Promise Bible” from King James Bibles.
I was surprised at the simple way the prayer from the Illustrated Faith Advent kit was met by the Scripture in the “Rooted in Hope” devotional. If you want to keep your heart on Christ through the Christmas season, there’s no better way that to have Scripture in your mouth and in your heart! Spending time in the Word is the best gift you can give yourself this Christmas!
I loved this assurance from the “Rooted in Hope” devotional: “The Lord will strengthen you to the end. It’s a journey and he’s taking it with you.”
The page below will always remind me of the night that we put up our Christmas tree. May I wait for Christ’s return with the same hope and excitement and eagerness to prepare that my children have for Christmas and always live as the servant he expects us to be, loving God and one another.
May you be filled with hope (even if it comes mixed with laughter or tears) this Advent!