The Candle of Hope: A Reflection for the First Week of Advent

by Jessica Asbell

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:7-12 NIV

The prophets in the Old Testament were full of hope that, eventually, the Messiah would come. The prophets were waiting, waiting on God’s rescue plan. They talked about Jesus without knowing Him, and were waiting and prophesying about someone they would never see.

Isaiah would never meet the Messiah and yet he continued to bring hope to the Israelites through his prophecies. Eventually, the Messiah would come and rescue them, getting rid of the things that weighed them down and defeating those who tried to oppress them. Throughout its history, Israel had been conquered many times. Its enemies were in charge of them and they wanted to be free. But they couldn’t imagine the freedom that Jesus would bring, because Jesus would (and did) defeat the ultimate enemy: death. No longer would death be in charge. Instead, the love of God would get rid of the power death had over everyone and we would be free to be with God for all eternity.

The prophets waited with hope that someday the Messiah would come. These days, children wait with hope that someday they will get to drive, someday they will go to college, someday they will get to stay up as late as they want. Whereas most of the prophets never got to see their hopes realized in the Messiah, children will eventually be able to drive, go to college, and stay up as late as they want. But for now, it feels like those things will never arrive. As they wait with expectation for these things and for Christmas, remind them that the prophets waited a long, long time for the Messiah to arrive. But eventually, their hopes and dreams came true in the form of Jesus.

Our prayer life can feel like this too. There are times when we pray fervently and often for things we really need, situations that need help, or for people who need healing. Sometimes God answers quickly, but often, we wait and wait in the hope that God will answer our prayers. It can feel as if God will never answer us. But if we, like the prophets, don’t give up, eventually God will answer our prayers. The answer will not always be yes, but God always answers us. 

Reflection question: What are you waiting for this advent season?

Prayer: Thank God that the prophets never gave up, that they continued to tell people that the Messiah was coming. Ask God for help in pressing on when it seems like what we wait for will never happen.