Advent Encouragement and Prayer-Week 1
As we approach Christmas, it seems like things get busier and our attention can easily shift from the joy of celebrating Christ’s birth to a long “to-do” list and a heavy load of expectations. If we’re not careful this season can rush past us (or run right over us!) One way we try, as a church, to anchor our hearts in this season is through intentionally observing Advent. Advent is the first four weeks before Christmas in which we prepare for the arrival of Christ. During this time we celebrate Christ’s birth and we look forward to His second Advent when he returns to “make all things new.” Each week of Advent represents a different theme: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Exploring these themes help us to intentionally walk through this Advent season and give us an opportunity to pause for a moment and reorient our hearts to Christ.
Week One: Hope
What is hope? Is it wishful thinking or just a happy thought? According to the Bible, hope that is grounded in Christ is not a fleeting feeling but a confident expectation. Biblical hope is founded on what God has already done and promises He will do. Our hope is placed on the trustworthiness of God’s word and deeds. As we look forward, we also look back at the ways His word has never failed. The good news of Jesus’ birth, teaching, death and resurrection gives us tangible hope for the day He will return and make all things new again. While we wait in the “already, not yet” tension of this life, it can be easy to grow weary. Our hope, however, is not dependent on our own strength or circumstance. Instead of being diminished by the weight of sin and suffering in this world, hope illuminates that something better is coming.
As we enter into the Christmas season, hope shines in a world full of brokenness. This season can be filled with both great joy and deep sorrow. Hope in Christ meets us right where we are. So, whether you are entering into this season excited and encouraged, or mourning the loss of a loved one, struggling financially, fighting the nagging feeling of fatigue, or are simply discouraged by the state of the world, you can confidently cling to hope. Our hope endures because Christ endures.
“And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
As you head into Advent this season, consider giving time to pause and pray that the Lord would reveal to you what you are placing your hope in. Circumstances, people, career, children and lots of other things are always competing for your hope. And if left unchecked, our hearts can attach to these things in unhealthy ways. The New City Catechism asks, “What is our only hope in life and death?” The answer is profoundly comforting: “That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.” Let’s try to slow down and pray with the paslimist, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:5).
Also, here is a nice little resource for you this week: The Advent Bible Project Video on Hope! It's great for both kids and adults.