We have lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of hope.
Hope is what Advent is all about. It looks forward to the fulfillment of promises made by God, for as Paul declares in Romans:
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8:24-25).
I know that some of us can’t wait for Advent to turn into Christmas, but while signs of Christmas are present, including the tree and the nativity scene, we still have to wait in patience for Advent’s hope to be fulfilled.
What is this Advent hope? At one level, we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, which was the first advent. We are also preparing for the second advent, when the fullness of God’s vision for creation is revealed. That vision is, according to the prophet Isaiah, one of peace.
The prophet Isaiah lived in ancient Judah, a very small kingdom living in the midst of powerful empires. Despite its smallness, the prophet envisions a time when the nations would stream to Jerusalem, and seek God’s wisdom at the Temple that resided on Mount Zion. Isaiah envisioned a time when the nations would come to Zion to seek God’s wisdom, and the God of Israel would teach them to walk in the light of the LORD. At that time, the God of Israel would judge the nations and arbitrate their disputes, so that they might “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
This is the hope of Advent: a time will come when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
It’s clear that this day has yet to arrive. Perhaps that is because we’re not ready to let go of the idols that lead to war and destruction. Still, hope remains that a time will come when the nations will “beat their swords into plowshares.” We pursue this hope by faith, and faith requires patience and endurance.
Over the course of our Advent journey you will find stories from the global church on the front of each bulletin. The timing is right for us to lift up our connections to the global church along with the work of Global Ministries.
We live at a time when the nation seems to be retreating from the world, but the church, in which we have our ultimate citizenship, is a global reality. The work of Global Ministries, therefore, is an expression of hope. It allows us to build bridges across religious, ethnic, social, and cultural boundaries. It is the way in which we can walk in the light of God, filled with the expectation that God will fulfill the promises of God. That requires patience, and we are an impatient people. Still, it’s possible to live in hope and walk into the future with God’s light leading the way. That is the hope of Advent!
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)