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We're Still Advent People | Hope


“Why do you have a piece of wood on the shelf,” my oldest asked as we finalized placement of our new Advent candles. “It’s a placeholder,” I replied, already familiar with my vision for what the shelf would become. But as with any project around here, finalization takes some time. For starters, the wood placeholder would need a few coats of white paint before I could add lines of “O Holy Night” to complete the art and, as a result, the fruition of the vision.

At first the wood was a visual annoyance standing in the way of the completed project. My head was already moving on to what I wanted it to be, to what it *should* be. But as I sat in the pew of our church on the first Sunday of Advent, the blank woodgrain became a source of inspiration -- a metaphor of hope -- the tension between what was, what is, what is yet to come.

Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” In this analogy, I have the hope -- the expectation and desire -- for my project to look a certain way. Though it isn’t done today, and probably not tomorrow either, at some point in the near future, the wood will be transformed. And how much is that like the place we occupy in history? We live in the time leading up to Christ’s return. We don’t know when, but we hope in The Promise. It’s not an accident that the Advent candle representing HOPE is the first to be lit. Hope weaves itself through the season as week after week, other candles -- Love, Joy and Peace -- add their light. But it’s the flame of Hope that burns the longest.*  Throughout Advent, it’s hope that mingles with angst; hope and waiting, (waiting, waiting, waiting) for something new; something complete.

We're in the shadows as we wait in the here but not yet. Sometimes, though, we don’t want the tension. Much like my original impatience to have my art completed in time to take photos for this post, how often are we tempted to rush through this season of designated waiting to the celebration? How often do we want to bypass the well-worn storyline of the Old Testament that leads to Jesus Christ’s birth rather than be uncomfortable as we share the anticipation? How often do we push aside the tension of Advent on our way to something “better”?

But what if it’s the tension that helps us recognize the better? What if it’s the incomplete that helps us know the complete? What if it’s the darkness of the shadowland that helps us see the Light? Even a small, low flame feels bright against the dark. We know this because we understand what darkness looks like and feels like, and we welcome even a lightened flicker. 

After all, we're still Advent people. We wait for His Return. And what better time than Advent to renew hope in The Promise? As believers, we're part of a waiting people. We've always been a people waiting on Our God and on The Word. 

Yes, we’re still Advent people. We’re still living with the blank piece of wood awaiting its completion. We’re somewhere on the timeline of redemptive history. We’re somewhere between the Advents. And so, we wait. And though we know not the time or the hour, we know He’s Coming Back. The Promise isn’t complete, but it’s also not forgotten. 

Until then, we hope.

*credit for this concept to a quote by April Fiet (@aprilfiet) via Twitter | Original blog link: The Hope Candle Burns The Longest


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