The Takeaway - Advent Week One
Episode 1: Hope
Part 1: Looking Back
Advent? Have you heard that word before? It comes from the Latin word Adventus, which means Coming. Advent is the very beginning of the church year, and it’s the season when we prepare for Christmas, for Jesus’ birth. Families have celebrated Advent for over 1,600 years—with candles.
Why candles? A long time ago in an Empire far, far away (the Roman Empire which extended through much of the Mediterranean world) there was a holiday called the Festival of the Unconquered Sun, on the darkest day of the year (the winter solstice, December 21), celebrating the future return of the sun. And the followers of Jesus wanted to join in—not to celebrate the SUN, but to celebrate the SON of God, as Jesus is the light of the world. From the gospel of John, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Lights in the Roman world were small, hand-held oil lamps, with wicks. The modern version of the oil lamp: candles.
Over time, the advent wreath was born. 5 candles in total. One candle lit for each of the four weeks of Advent; and the final candle is the Christ candle, lit on Christmas Day. In our church, the candles represent hope, peace, joy, and love.
Part 2: The Present
If you haven’t already, light the first candle—the candle of hope!
The theme of the first week of Advent is hope. It’s my favorite week of all of Advent—I am hungry for hope, especially in this pandemic season. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word hope means expectation and desire combined. In other words, what you’re dreaming of. What you feel when you write your Christmas wish list.
In Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament), the word for hope is yakhal, which means to wait for. Another Hebrew word for hope is qavah, which means tension or expectation; it’s related to the Hebrew word for cord, qav. Take a moment now to find a qav (a string, a ribbon, or a rubber band). You may want to pause this podcast. Now pull the ends of your cord (your qav) in opposite directions. (If you don’t have one, pretend!) What do you feel? This feeling of tension or expectation is the feeling of hope—something is about to happen!
In Greek (the language of the New Testament), the word for hope is elpis. And it means looking ahead to a future that is better than the present.
Throughout the Bible, hope is based on trust in God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and not on circumstances, which come and go. Hope happens while we wait.
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
7O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.” (Psalm 130.5-7)
Hope can even grow out of struggle, according to the Apostle Paul:
“…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5.3-5)
And hope can lead to faith:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11.1)
Let’s listen to what hope is like through part of the story of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It’s the story of 4 siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmund, & Lucy) who discover a magical wardrobe in the house they are living in—which transports them to another world, Narnia. In our passage, the children meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver for the first time. Listen for what hope sounds like:
“Here the Beaver’s voice sank into silence and it gave one or two very mysterious nods. Then signaling to the children to stand as close around it as they possibly could, so that their faces were actually tickled by its whiskers, it added in a low whisper—
‘They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.’
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”
Aslan’s coming inspires hope in each person: Edmund feels something mysterious; Peter feels courage; Susan feels delight; Lucy feels joy.
Part 3: Looking Ahead
This brings us to the last part of our chat: what does hope look like in you and me? How can hope live inside us—in our bodies, hearts, and minds? And how can we share hope with the world?
Let’s start with our bodies: We can act on hope by first trusting that God is making all things new—and God wants us to join in! Every time you care for someone or something, every time you do the next right thing—you are part of God’s plan to repair the whole world.
Next let’s look at our hearts: We can feel hope in our hearts. Hope feels like courage, openness, creativity: that sense that something good is going to happen at any moment. Let’s practice that feeling together: sit up straight in your chair, feet on the floor (or just stand up). Now open your arms wide like a superhero about to fly, look up towards the ceiling, and arch your back. Do you feel your chest opening wide? That open, spacious feeling is hope.
Last but not least, let’s focus on our minds: We can think about hope by remembering how God has been good and faithful in the past, by looking to the Bible and to your own life. Take a moment to find a family photo or two around your house. Look at the picture—notice how you used to look. I have a baby photo of each of my children (who are now 14 and 11). When I look at these two photos each day, I am reminded of God’s goodness to me and my family, over time.
Now it’s your turn to talk as a family.
- What can you do to act on hope?
- What does hope feel like for you? What helps you connect with this feeling?
- What thoughts lead you to hope? What helps you to focus on hope?
Before you blow out the candle of hope, receive this blessing from the Apostle Paul:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15.13)
Go in hope!