This post is the first in a four-part series of devotions celebrating Advent. The previous post provides an explanation and some encouragement about how to make use of these posts.
We have hope when we cherish a deep desire and the expectation that our desire will be fulfilled; we don’t yet have what we long for, but we have confidence that one day we will possess what our heart desires. Hopefulness buoys our hearts, lifting us through hard times.
On the other hand, Proverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” (13:12). God made our hearts to run on hope, like a motor runs on gasoline. So when we cherish deep desires and have very little expectation that our desires will be fulfilled, our hearts become sick. The lights go out, and we walk in painful heart-darkness: sadness, despair, hopeless, and inertia. Areas of hopelessness hurt, perhaps at the deepest level.
~ As you prepare for Christmas, how are you experiencing “hope deferred” or the heart-sickness of dead hopes? Where do you long for hope?
Hope in the Darkness
Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, God spoke through the prophets of Israel, promising He would come. Isaiah said, “The Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (meaning ‘God with us.’) (Isaiah 7:14).
The Israelites waited a very long time. But then, “Mary . . . gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger,” (Luke 2:6-7).
God promised. And God delivered what He had promised. God had been working in the darkness.
Hope Between Times
When Jesus had grown to be a man, He promised, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also,” (John 14:2-4).
We live in the time between His first coming and His second coming (Matthew 24:30). But God’s perfect fulfillment of His long-ago promises gives us every hope for the fulfillment of the promises we cling to today: because Jesus came the first time, we hope with confidence in His coming again. And when He comes, He will take us to Himself. We will be with Him forever in His Kingdom where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,” (Revelation 21:4).
This means that chapters in our lives of pain, loss, or disappointment do not define us. No matter how dark the road we walk this Advent season, God is not finished writing our story toward the best and most beautiful ending. This is our greatest HOPE.
Because, “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,” (Isaiah 9:2, ).
Hope for the Heart
~ Ask the Lord how the HOPE of Jesus’ birth and His promised second coming shine light into the areas of dark hopelessness you thought about above. Listen quietly for His response.
Promises to give HOPE
If you find hope elusive, prayerfully consider these promises. Ask God to speak hope to you as only He can.
~ Isaiah prophesied that Mary’s son Jesus would be called “Immanuel”—God with us. And Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20). How can Jesus with you—every breath—give you hope?
~ Speaking of His own coming, Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). And Paul taught, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). How can the truth that God loved you enough to give you His Son give you hope?
~ Before the coming of John the Baptist, the Israelites passed four hundred years without hearing from a prophet of God. This was a long walk through a dark, silent time. But the birth of Jesus revealed that God had been at work in that darkness, fulfilling His promises in His perfect time. Speaking of the coming of Jesus, John the Beloved wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it . . . the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world,” (John 1:5, 9). How can the truth that while God was silent for four hundred years He was preparing to fulfill His promises in the most glorious, unexpected way give you hope?
A Prayer for HOPE
If you long for hope this week, you may make this your daily prayer:
Father, I long for your Kingdom where everything is as it should be: where no one dies, where relationships do not fail, and where the things that have broken my heart will be no more. I long for your Kingdom where I will find “fullness of joy . . . at your right hand,” (Psalm 16:11), but I live here and now where sin and evil and death do so much damage. I live in the land of deep darkness. Please give me your Holy Spirit and shine the light of HOPE into my darkness. Please may you, “the God of hope, fill me will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit I may abound in hope,” (Romans 15:13).
May HOPE lift your heart this Advent.