Hope in the Season of Advent

Advent 2

I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord. Psalm 121

How I love the season of Advent! I love preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family. The delicious smell of sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven and everyone wanting to be the first to sample a cookie or unroll a cinnamon bun dripping with gooey sweet icing.

I love to light candles around our advent wreath, celebrating the promises of God, and to see the glow of tea lights shimmering through colored glass. One of my favorite activities of Christmas past was decorating ginger bread houses with my children. I remember their giggles and delight with decorating a gingerbread house and displaying it as a center piece on the dining room table, nibbled on everyday so that by the end of Christmas, the only thing remaining were pieces of broken gingerbread. I remember one year when a few of us volunteering in children’s ministry at our church decided to plan a Gingerbread House party for the kids attending a mid-week program. I don’t know what we were thinking! We were amazed and delightfully overwhelmed by the number of kids that came…maybe 80 or more! The gingerbread houses turned quickly into gingerbread huts constructed with four graham crackers, with each cracker glued to a side of a small milk carton, with that wonderful white sticky miracle icing that would chip a tooth if you took a bite of it once it dried and hardened. It was a crazy wonderful messy event with every child proudly carrying their creation home on a small plastic plate…each hut covered in colorful skittles, cinnamon drops, sprinkles, licorice twists and sugared gumdrops, soon to become a center piece on their kitchen table.

Ah, the sweet memories of Christmas past! We are creating new memories this year, even through topsy-turvy unexpected life changing events. There is some unrest, unknowns and a lot of “what ifs” trying to rob our first love of focusing on God’s promise that we have been rescued from fear and doubt and so much more than that!

How we delight in the promises of God, asking for his help to focus our hearts on the fulfilled expectation of Christ’s first coming and the glorious expectation of His second coming. God made a promise to rescue us and he keeps it perfectly…confirmed the promise by his oath. God’s unchangeable character is guaranteed by his promise and his oath. It is impossible for God to lie. We pray for his help to find refuge and a strong encouragement to hold fast to this hope. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of our soul. (Hebrews 6)

There is great hope in the season of advent! God wants you to have the full assurance of hope—no weak and flimsy hope, but a strong, full, confident hope—lest you become “sluggish” or “dull” and begin to think that the Christian hope is not as real as the hopes offered by the world.

And God intrudes in our story. He is making all things new. He has made all things new. Even though our tummies aren’t filled with sugar cookies, we are filled with the forever sweetness of God’s grace that pours over us regardless of the condition of our heart. On the outside, we may resemble a lopsided and pasted together gingerbread hut but we are securely held tight on a strong foundation built on God’s promises.

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: “It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!” And he would. One day, God himself would come. (The Jesus Storybook Bible)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) 

Our help comes from the Lord! This is our hope in the season of advent! Merry Christmas!

A Living Hope is a Confident Expectation That God is Good

Isla at the Gate

God is good all of the time. All of the time God is good.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope…I Peter 1:3

Like the stars in the sky, there is no variation in God’s character. He is infinitely good. He is fixed in his divine nature and character. Because God is good, God can only give what is good, even sometimes when wrapped in harsh packages like trials, because ultimately we know in the midst of it God is working something out in these trials.

He’s seeking to produce in us something we could not produce on our own, and that is a maturity…a steadfastness, a sense of weaning ourselves from our own self-reliance so we can cling to Christ for his sufficiency in all things; that we’d get more of Christ in the midst of this so that the power of God would be manifest in our weakness. [1]  (“…rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…1 Peter 1: 6-7)

My prayer today has been, “Lord, I believe but help my unbelief and my heart to see that you are good all of the time. Heal and free me from my unbelief. Believing that you really want us, desire us, and enjoy us is almost too much to take in. That you have caused us to be born into a living hope…to an inheritance that is imperishable. The fact that you love us with an everlasting love and lavish more and more grace upon us seems impossible, and tragically, at times not enough. When I am distracted, deceived, and drawn away from the wonders of your love and forget this living hope and your goodness, everything else is affected. Help me to love you more with unfettered abandon, to treasure this living hope, to be thankful–with a confident expectation that you are good all of the time.”

A living hope is a confident expectation that God is good.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  (I Peter 1:3-8 ESV)

[1] Our Hope in Trials: Shea Sumlin;  http://www.thevillagechurch.net/sermon/our-hope-in-trials/