November 2020

Day 5, Hope Sustains Us (November 30th)

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [which] was given to us.
—Romans 5:5

He had been waiting. The old man was ready. Luke calls him righteous and devout. Simeon had been faithfully serving God for decades and watching for the fulfillment of His promise to send a Messiah. Each morning, he might have asked, “Is this the day?” Then came the day when he felt that nudge by God’s Spirit: Go to the temple. Something exciting is about to happen. I have a surprise for you.
When Simeon saw the young family across the temple courts, he knew. This was the moment he had been waiting for his whole life. He probably ran to them, taking the baby from the surprised parents, lifting him skyward, then cradling him in his arms. And Simeon worshiped. He told God he was fulfilled, content; he could now die a happy man. “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
Simeon is the perfect example of the man described in Jeremiah 17:7: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD.” Simeon reminds us that hope does not disappoint. Why? Because, as Paul says, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [which] was given to us.” God’s never-ending love for us will always come through in God’s perfect timing. The hope of Christ will never fail us.
Ask yourself these questions?
How would your hope compare to Simeon’s?
How might you spread a sense of hope by some small expression fueled by God’s love?
Write the answers down in you advent journal.

Day 4, When Hope Seems Gone (November 29th)

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. —Isaiah 43:1-2

When commercial fisherman John Aldridge went sprawling overboard 40 miles off the coast of New York in 2017, he knew his partner, Anthony Sosinski, sleeping belowdecks would never hear his cries for help. When the boat motored ahead on autopilot and disappeared over the crest of a wave, Aldridge knew he was alone. As he tread water in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a life vest, he knew this was the way he would die.
But then he discovered that he could create an air pocket in his fishing boots. They floated. It was a flicker of hope to literally cling to. Aldridge made it through the night. He eventually spotted a fishing buoy and was able to cling to it. Twelve hours after he had fallen into the sea, a Coast Guard helicopter pulled Aldridge to safety. Against all hope, the man overboard survived.
Sometimes we just need something, one thing, to cling to in the darkness and the depths. God’s Word is filled with promises, such as Isaiah 43:1-2 above. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” In Jeremiah 29:11, we’re told, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God has given us hope we can cling to. No matter what we are facing, we can turn to the Bible and find His words come alive to renew hope within us.
Ask yourself these questions?
What Bible verses are speaking to you today?
What Scripture can you write down or memorize as a source of renewed hope?
Write the answers down in you advent journal.

Day 3, Hope Conquers Fear (November 28th)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. —1 Peter 1:3-4

It was the night before the Christmas Eve service when church organist Lewis Redner came up with the tune to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Waking in the night, he felt like he had heard the whisper of an angel, and he wrote down the melody of the beloved carol we still sing nearly 150 years later.
The lyrics were a poem written by Phillips Brooks, minister at Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. Several years later, in 1865, Brooks had visited Bethlehem on horseback during a trip to the Holy Land. He saw shepherds tending their flocks in the countryside surrounding the small village and attended a Christmas Eve service in the Church of the Nativity. He remembered the moving experience several years later as he prepared for Christmas Eve worship. Brooks and Redner thought their combined composition would only be sung for that evening’s service, but, as we know, the song quickly spread and endured.

Among the song’s beautiful lyrics is this line: The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee tonight. It’s a reminder that no matter how great the fear—even the fears of all history—the hope that Christ brings is greater. In Jesus, hope overcomes all our fears, and this hope is alive. Peter calls it a living hope. Because Christ has come to live and die and rise again, this hope of life conquers the fears of death. Because of Jesus, when fear and hope collide, hope wins.

Ask Yourself These Questions?
How is fear darkening your life?
How can you grab hold of this living hope in Jesus?

Write the answer down in an Advent Diary.

Day 2, Hope To Carry On (November 27th)

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. —Isaiah 40:31

The pictures show him sharply dressed in a navy-blue blazer, decorated with military medals, behind the walker that he uses to get around. That walker didn’t stop Captain Sir Tom Moore. Neither did his 100 years of age. Captain Tom, as he became famously known, walked 100 laps around his backyard and became a viral sensation who raised $40 million for the British health care system in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It started as a challenge from his son-in-law and went viral when posted to a fundraising website. Captain Tom’s sense of steady perseverance inspired Great Britain during a time it needed hope. “The first step was the hardest,” Captain Tom told reporters after. “After that, I got into the swing of it and kept on going.”

Isn’t that always true? The first step is always the hardest. But hope gives us the push to get going. Captain Tom began walking with the hope that he might be able to help someone. Hope spurs us to take that first step in a difficult time. Hope enables us to keep walking, one more step at a time. And hope sustains us with the vision that there is a better ending. Isaiah reminds us that our strength is renewed when we put our hope in the Lord. The hope that Christ has brought into the world allows our spirit to soar like an eagle. It fuels us to keep walking, one step at a time.

Ask Yourself These Questions?
Where is hope leading you?
What is the next step God is leading you to take this Christmas season?
Write the answer down in an Advent Diary.

Day 1, Hope Sees Beyond (November 26th)

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. —Romans 8:24-26

Have you ever seen the movie A Christmas Story? You know, the one with Ralphie and his friend who gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole? The 1983 holiday classic centers around Ralphie’s longing for a Red Ryder BB gun. He has built it up as the be-all, end-all of his nine-year-old existence, and there is nothing he wants more. For most of the movie, other people, including a department store Santa, pour cold water on his dream, but he continues to keep hope alive. When Christmas morning comes, it seems Ralphie’s hope is crushed when all the presents are opened and there is no Red Ryder. Spoiler alert: Of course, there is one more hidden gift, and Ralphie’s greatest wish comes true.
At that point, Ralphie doesn’t need hope anymore. He can’t hope anymore. His hope is fulfilled. As Paul writes, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” Paul is talking about the completion of God’s work within and around us, the fulfilled restoration of our bodies and souls and all of creation. Paul explains that this is reality already, made possible because Jesus has come, and lived, and died, and risen. Now, with help from His Spirit, we wait patiently to see His work fulfilled. This was the promise God gave at the beginning and continued through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the history of the Jewish people. Our hope is fulfilled in Jesus.

Ask Yourself These Questions?
What is your deepest hope this Christmas?
What step can you take to experience the strength of God’s Spirit to renew hope and realize His work all around us?
Write the answer down in an Advent Diary.