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Nov 30, 2015

by Kristin Meyer

The holiday season is now in full swing, and I know well the mixed emotions that this time of year brings for those whose hearts long for a child. The joy of so many around you leaves you feeling even more like “the people walking in darkness” (Isaiah 9:2).” 

As a child, one of my family’s Christmas traditions was lighting the candles of the Advent wreath each night at dinner. Over the years, I learned the pattern of the weeks leading up to Christmas:

The first candle for hope

The second for love

The third for joy (my favorite because it was pink)

The fourth for peace

Finally, on Christmas day, the Christ candle would light up the center. Each week, the light would grow around the table as we anticipated Jesus’ birth. 

This Advent season, I have been thinking about light and darkness and about how the first light is hope.

In the 2011 devotional, Illuminate: An Advent Experince, Paul Sheneman writes:

“Hope is an odd thing to understand. We typically think of hope as a good thing. Yet hope is rarely found in places where good things happen regularly. Rather, hope is found in places where bad things happen, such as when we experience hurt and loss. Our Advent journey begins in almost complete darkness. But we see the faint hope of a flickering light that has started pushing back the darkness” (pg 16).

Do you feel like you are one of “those living in the land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2)? 

Do you know hurt and loss?

Have you dared to hope, month after month, only to face disappointment?

Hope can be a difficult thing to hang onto. It is tempting to let bitterness smother any hint of hope so that disappointments sting less. 

Advent is a time that recognizes and acknowledges the darkness—in our world and in our lives. 

On our own, we are people walking in darkness, groping around to find any sliver of light. 

But Advent does not leave us in darkness.

It begins with the glimmer of hope and ends with Jesus, the Light of the World, bringing us not only a reason to hope but also bringing love, joy, and peace.   

A Christian’s hope is not based in human understanding. It is so much more than positive thinking—crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Our hope is found in places of hurt, loss, and suffering. Hope, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is absolute certainty, despite any darkness we experience, in who God is—His goodness and love and, ultimately, His plans for our lives.

Advent proves that God’s plans often do not conform to our expectations. The King of heaven was born in a stable and became the Savior of the world by dying on a cross. But when we trust His plan, He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). 

One of the best ways we can live in hope, and experience light even in the darkness, is through remembering and focusing on what we have just finished celebrating—thanksgiving. Giving thanks reminds us of the many ways God has poured light and grace into our lives, leading us to the hope (certainty!) that He will continue to do this in each new day.

I pray that during this Advent season and beyond, no matter the darkness of waiting or loss you may be experiencing, you will seek the light of hope and trust His plan.   

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is His faithfulness;

His mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:21–23 (NLT)