We are in the season of Advent when we prepare our hearts to receive the gift of Christ on Christmas. Many churches light a candle each week until the Christ candle is lit for Christmas. Different denominations use different candles and themes. So today I’m going to talk about Hope and Love.
Hope is what keeps our eyes focused on the good and gives our spirits inspiration to keep going when times are difficult. Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble. And that has been born out over this past year. But amidst the trouble, God said, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT) You can take that to heart.
So where do we see hope demonstrated in the natural world around us? The list is a mile long. The sun rises on a new day, every day. Seeds that fall to the ground take root as the hundred-foot oak trees testify. The maple and sweetgum saplings that spring up in my garden show the natural intent of every living thing to survive and reproduce.
The tulip bulbs that winter in the soil and then sprout when the weather warms testify to spring. As do the swaths of daffodils, crocus, windflowers, and other spring harbingers. And there is hope even in winter because we trust that after winter, He will bring spring. We may not enjoy the cold weather, but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that spring will follow and then summer will burst upon the scene. That fact hasn’t changed for thousands of years.
Alexander Pope wrote an essay on hope in which he said, “People will continue to hope even though they have evidence that things cannot possibly turn out the way they want.”* Perhaps the seed of hope is actually in our DNA. For Christians, hope is kept safe within because we know the God in whom we have our hope. He does not change. He is always looking out for us.
As we see the days getting shorter, we know that after the winter solstice, the days will once more begin to get longer. The light and sunshine we crave will once more be abundant. I find hope in seeing that even in winter God places treasures for me to find. Certainly lichens put on their most magnificent display when the surroundings are dull. Or yesterday, when I got to watch a great blue heron stand in the stream and eye me and the pup. I had such joy studying his expression and different feather variations including a long black one that swept out of the back of his head. My friend Susanne Swing Thompson has graciously allowed me to use her photo below. Check out her website: www.wren-photos.com for more delightful photos.
But most of all, God is Hope. If there is ever any reason to trust Him, it is because He is the author and creator of hope in our lives. When Jesus comes to live in us, we always have a wellspring of hope (and joy) that no one or no event can alter. It is unshakable and immovable just like His Spirit. We know that God is perfectly just, righteous and the epitome of love.
That brings me to a second candle, Love. It’s hard to have hope without knowing that you are deeply loved and protected — that your life is important to the God who created you. His love is demonstrated to us in the beauty of the surroundings that He created for us to live in. Granted there are different climates and environments, but as a whole, the earth is a splendid reflection of God’s love for us. He could have made it flat, but He gave us mountains. It could have been dry, but He gave us rivers, waterfalls and the ocean. It could have been all one color, but He covered the planet with every leaf and fruit bearing tree that we would ever want or need. Then He put birds, bees and butterflies of every color and form for us to enjoy with the flowers
Yes, He gave us millions of varieties of flowers. We take for granted the trees that are around us until we are forced to live or work in an urban setting and find ourselves missing them. I remember spending years working in NYC and taking a deep breath every evening when I got home to the country where I lived. Every November I used to visit a greenhouse filled with poinsettias or a botanical garden still showing its tropical colors. When you look at the photos below, can you not feel the creator’s imagination and love that we would have such plants even in the midst of winter? Definitely.
Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (italics mine)
Hebrews 6:17-19 NIV
*An Essay on Man, 1732