For some, heritage or genealogy brings hope. A long line of survivors gives courage to the person who is struggling. A family of priests encourages the priestly aspirations. Henri Neuwan speaks of his godly family. The gospel of Matthew starts with genealogy. For others the prophecy of Scripture leads to hope. Rough times and opposition are part of the package of life but a better tomorrow is predicted. Mark felt that way as he opens his gospel with a quote from the Old Testament. There is another, smaller, group that is blessed with a direct experience of the holy. Luke, the gospel to the Gentiles, opens his gospel in Chapter 1 with the visit of an angel to Zechariah, the father-to-be of John the Baptists, and Mary, the mother-to-be of Jesus. Both are about to experience an extraordinary event and the angel wants them to know beyond a doubt that what is happening is of God. Both have no children, he because of age and a barren wife, she because of youth and a pledge to celibacy during engagement. He doubts the angel and becomes mute until the birth but does conceive with his wife. She believes and steps into her future.
It is easy to flick these reports off as “stories” and yet, I suspect, God speaks directly into our lives more than we realize. Have you ever been at a low moment and suddenly the phone rings and that special person calls and suddenly life is bearable? I have crumpled up on my bed in tears, reached for my Bible, and opened to just the right verse to encourage me. Then again there has been that check in the mail that was unexpected that helped me make it through the month. After a long grueling day, seeing a beautiful orange and red sunset sitting on the beach has lifted my spirits and given me hope for tomorrow. Glancing up at a tree to see a beautiful bird singing its heart out in spite of the flurry of life below brings hope. I must admit I sat looking at the horizon and when I looked down, there was a snake sliding across the sidewalk. I watched its body twist and push it across my path. Amazing. All this is to say that indeed God speaks in words, through angels, through Scripture, through friends, through nature, through the events of life into our lives today and sends us hope. The prophecy may be about some event that is going to take place in the future but I suspect often we are encouraged to realize his presence with us as the future unfolds.
As you light your first Advent candle tonight for a brief moment of meditation and prayer, reflect on where you saw the hand of God in your life today. Perhaps think of one person in your family that has encouraged you and given you hope. Is there a verse of Scripture that helps you face the future? And yes, today God is there putting arms of hope around you. Blessings.