Hope comes first. This Sunday we light the first of five candles in our Advent wreath: the candle of Hope. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and for many Christians around the world is the season of waiting and preparing for Christ’s coming. This custom of lighting Advent candles is an old one, often practiced in homes. On each Advent Sunday families have lit candles set in a wreath, read from the Bible sections of the Christmas story, sung and prayed together.
Hope comes first. Hope gives an horizon to head towards. With Abraham hope moved him towards a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb 11:10). Without hope there are no tomorrows, just the past on endless repeat. Under Moses hope liberated a people from Pharaoh and carried them through armies, seas and deserts to God’s land of promise. That first Christmas morning it is the anticipation of God’s rescuing King which caused Magi to travel and angels to sing.
With the hurrying pace and many demands as Christmas day approaches, hope comes first. Hope that is held in the promises of God and the person of Jesus. The hope of Christ’s coming is what opens us up to the further blessings of Advent: peace, joy, love, and Christ himself.
Lighting the first candle: As we light this first Advent candle, we hope for the fuller brightness that is to come. May it remind us to watch for what God will give us, and to see what he has already given.
Prayer: O God, we thank you for your gift of Christ with word and deed. May we be grateful every day. Help us to meet others with understanding, our work with willingness, our responsibilities with patience. In Jesus you have given us your best. Help us to give generously to those who need us, especially in this season of giving. Amen.