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Advent Devotion: Hope

Story told by Helen Lancaster on December 6, 2018

When we sing the second verse of the carol “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” in celebrating the
Christmas season, we might not think carefully of the meaning of the words. It goes like this –

Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

“Hope of all the earth…desire of every nation.” Then the first candle of the Advent wreath is lit – the light
symbolizing hope to all the world – “Desire of every nation.”

Hope is the confidence of what God has promised – that something will happen to fulfill our desires. The
light of that first candle, like the light of the star over the manger in Bethlehem, guides us to that hope –
the long-expected Jesus…not a national leader to free the Jews from Roman rule, as so many of his
countrymen had hoped. The Christ child’s birth was for the hope of every nation, and for all the earth.
The hope that the Christ child brings can be seen when the light of the Bethlehem star, the light of the
candle is reflected. Acts of loving-kindness occur, usually in quiet, unassuming ways, without regard to
notice or reward. Those who do see are aware of small blessings acted out among the followers of the
Christ child and hope comes. Where there are acts of compassion – healing, physical, mental, and
relational; encircling prayer; kindness – then hope comes.

Sometimes these “pieces” or blessings ofGod’s love comes from individuals – perhaps just an encouraging
conversation or touch – or from groups or large organizations. They bring hope when there is helping,
feeding the hungry, working for justice. Rays of hope come in a thousand different places and in a thousand different
ways.Hebrews 6:9-11 says that “even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better
things in your case – things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust. He will not forget your work
and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want
each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.” To make
your hope sure is to be secure in trusting God’s promises, the gift of His Son, the Prince of Peace, the
source of hope.

As the years of our lives grow, experiences teach us – just as the flood of hurricane Harvey did. There
were uncountable acts of kindness – saving of lives, transporting people to shelter, giving care and food,
and helping to clean up. The hope that resulted, and the memories of the love and kindness that were
experienced remain. The community of the city that is Houston has hope. “Hope of all the earth…desire
of every nation” – made visible in Houston.

Matthew 25:34-40 says: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the Kingdom
prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I
was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed
clothes, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and
give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and
clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the
truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

So hope is given and hope is received. Blessed to be a blessing. In gratitude for the gift of the long-
expected Jesus, the hope of the earth come down, we worship. And in worship, we find peace, and in
peace there is joy, and in joy, there is hope. Colossians 1:27 says: “To them, God has chosen to make
known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”