Candle of Hope

The first Sunday in the month of December begins Advent. Just in case you are wondering what this whole advent thing is, let’s go to wikipedia.

Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus atChristmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

One tradition accompanying Advent is the Advent wreath.

Adventskranz 1. Advent

Four or five candles depending on how many Sundays is used and each candle has a specific meaning.

The readings for the first Sunday in Advent relate to the old testament patriarchs who were Christ’s ancestors, so some call the first advent candle that of hope.

I have looked up a few advent readings for 2013, but they all began in the New Testament so I am going for the challenge of putting together my own readings this week to share with you. They will all come from the Old Testament. They will all also come from those who are revealed to us as the lineage of Christ according the flesh.

When I looked up the word hope in the Scriptures, I discovered that the first occurrence of this word, according to the NASB, is in the book of Ruth. Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David who is in the lineage of Christ. How fitting that the first occurrence of the word hope would be concerning a woman who would bear a child, who would one day bear a child, who would bear The Child.

Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? 

Ruth 1:12-13

The word for hope here in the Hebrew is tiqvah and it means cord. Figuratively it means expectation, hope, live, thing that I long for. In this verse Naomi is speaking to Ruth and to her other daughter-in-law as well. Naomi has decided that her situation is hopeless, and that these two young women need to return to their parents house and go on about their lives.

However, Ruth will not hear of it.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth did not know what the future held, but Ruth held on to Naomi. She refused to walk away from this woman and leave her all alone. She would go with her, husband or no husband. Naomi had lost hope, but Ruth had not. I often wonder what kind of life Ruth had before she met Naomi’s family. What had this Moabite woman been rescued from as she became the bride of this Israelite man?

The Moabites worshiped a god named Chemosh. Chemosh had a taste for blood.  In 2 Kings 3:27 we find that human sacrifice was a part of the rites of Chemosh. What would it have been like to be the child in a home that sacrificed their children into the arms of a fired filled false deity? I can’t even imagine being raised in that type of culture.

Can you just imagine this woman who has known child sacrifice as normal, meeting this family who serves the One True God who forbids such rites and values life? What would it have been like to learn about a God that commanded His people to love Him and to love their neighbor? What would it have been like for Ruth to meet a God who had revealed Himself as a God of compassion, mercy, and kindness?

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…

Exodus 34:6-7

I can almost hear the inner thoughts of Ruth. Leave Naomi? Leave their God? Leave this Hope?

No, leave Ruth would not.

She did not know what the future held as she walked into Bethlehem with this woman she now claimed as her own mother, but she knew she would keep walking forward into the unknown before she even considered turning back to the past.

Hope is found in the future. Hope is found pressing forward. Hope is trusting in something yet to come, but walking in full assurance that it is indeed to come.

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Romans 8:23-25

Ruth had been given a first fruit of God when she entered into this family. She received her first taste of something so beautiful and tender that even though she groaned in this present loss of her husband, her brother-in-law, and her father-in-law facing, this groaning was worth the hope that she had found in this family.

She could not see what was coming next, but she was learning about this God of her deceased husband. She was learning about this God of her mother-in-law Naomi, and she wanted this God to be her God. She wanted this family to be her family.

She wanted this Hope to be her hope. She had grabbed hold of the cord of Christ. She grabbed hold of the scarlet thread of redemption that has woven its way all through history. She grabbed hold of Hope and she was not letting go.

As we close out this year we are one year closer to the return of our Lord. As you consider His advent, His coming, are there things that you have placed your hope in other than Him? What or who are you clinging to? Have you said goodbye to the past and grabbed hold of the redemptive cord of Christ? With perseverance are you eagerly watching for Him?