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November 22, 2021

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust; I trust in you . . . No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame . . . Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my God and my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Excerpts, Psalm 25: 1-6)

Next Sunday, November 28th, is the first Sunday in Advent–the beginning of the church year.   Many churches across Christendom follow a lectionary that lists the Scripture texts to be read on the Sundays and other holy days during the year.  The Revised Common Lectionary follows a three-year schedule divided into three series.  Series A generally includes gospel readings from Matthew; Series B includes gospel readings from Mark; and Series C generally follows gospel readings from Luke—though readings from John’s gospel are scattered throughout the three-year series.   We begin in Series C this week; most of the Sunday gospel readings throughout the year will be from Luke’s gospel.  

The four Sundays before Christmas make up the season of Advent.  It is a time of excitement and waiting.  We are excited about seeing friends and relatives from far and near.  We are looking forward to preparing and sharing our favorite holiday foods and listening to Christmas music as we decorate the tree.  We are looking forward to Christmas programs and concerts, luncheons, teas, and to buying and receiving special gifts.  But most of all, we are waiting to celebrate the birth of the One who changed the history of the world– the One who came in hope, peace, joy, and love to save us from ourselves. 

Because it is a season of hope, peace and goodwill, joy, and love, we often meditate on those virtues in tandem with the Scripture lessons during Advent.  We will follow that tradition this advent season.  David teaches us that our hope is in God, and the word Jeremiah received from God included promises of hope, peace, joy and love: “My hope is in you all day long (Psalm 25: 8); “I will heal my people and let them enjoy abundant peace and security” (Jeremiah 33: 6); “Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor” (Jeremiah 33:9); “His love endures forever” (Jeremiah 33:11b).

The darkest days of the year are upon us.  Yet, in the midst of the darkness, we have hope.  Our hope is expressed in the person of Jesus Christ, who overcame death itself.  We put our trust in God even as we face the dark days in our lives—setbacks, despair, and anxiety.  David tells us: “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust; I trust in you . . . No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame . . . Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my God and my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Excerpts, Psalm 25: 1-6).[1]

The word Jeremiah received from God confirmed that the country was a “desolate waste,”—but he brought them hope in God’s promise to restore it: “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, ‘It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.’ Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted . . . there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness” (Jeremiah 33: 10-11).  

Our God is a God of restoration, renewal, revival, and refreshment.  Believe in God’s power and in his desire to restore you to wholeness. 

The Jews in Jerusalem had great hope that Jesus was the conqueror who would release them from the chains of bondage that they had endured for so many centuries: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  (Luke 19:38).  They were correct that Jesus was their Messiah, but they did not yet understand that his kingdom is so much greater than any on earth.  

Paul, who endured much himself, brought hope to the church at Thessalonica: “Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes . . .” (1 Thessalonians 3: 11-13a).   

The Thessalonians were in need of encouragement.  The church had only been established two or three years before Paul wrote his first letter to them, about 51 A. D.  They were being persecuted, and were frustrated that Jesus had not returned to rescue them.  Most first century Christians believed that Jesus would return during their lifetimes, and became discouraged with the passage of years.  Paul’s letters helped them mature in their faith. 

Are you looking for hope?  Do you need encouragement?  Are the holidays a particularly difficult time for you?  Are you looking for comfort in the dark, bleak days ahead?  Come to Jesus.  Give him your pain, your problems, your anxieties, your concerns.  When everything else around you is crumbling, rely on your one sure hope—Jesus Christ.  

The evergreen tree is a symbol of our hope and knowledge that God offers us eternal life through his Son, Jesus.  Think about that as you decorate your tree and string the lights symbolizing the light of Christ. 

Prayer:  Lord of all hopefulness, fill us with your Spirit of hope, peace, joy, and love today and throughout this Advent season.  Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture lessons for the First Sunday in Advent are Psalm 25:1-10; Jeremiah 33: 1-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 19: 28-40.

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