Today LifePoint observed the first day of our first Advent Season, the theme for our reflection was Hope. As I gathered the kids around the Advent wreath to talk about what hope was, they had the basic idea even as children. Hope is confident expectancy that something good is going to happen. Hope plays a powerful role in all our lives. Hope, at least in my opinion, is a part of the ingredients necessary to make life, life. John 1:4 “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
Of course as I understand the experience of living, there is life and there is existence. You can be breathing, working, thinking, acting, and reacting in the world around us but not really living just merely existing. In my life, having experienced both, Christ and the hope he brings is the major difference between the two. This evening provided a powerful reflection on this idea.
Part of my pastoral duties are overseeing our small groups so I visit the different groups from week to week, this night because of scheduling I was able to visit two very different groups. The first group, comprised of my Grandfather, a Godly man and pastor of one church for over 50 years and my parents and others of their age. In other words these are very much solid Christians who make up the backbone of our church. They have a tried and true faith, and they are willing and open to asking new questions of faith and progressing to reach new generations, while also serving as a reminder of our heritage in the faith. They had arranged to meet early at a local nursing home so that one of the dear saints of the church might be able to share in fellowship with the group.
Grandma Lou, as we all know her, is one of those rare souls whose eyes always seem to sparkle. In her early 80’s she had recently spent time in the hospital, yet you could scarcely discern a complaint from her. While the group met, we sang old Gospel hymns and Christmas carols. And then were treated to Grandma Lou and Grandpa Rhoades reminiscing and testifying about God’s faithfulness through their many years. They have both lost their spouses having spent many years deeply in love. This is a type of loss many never recover from, yet they both shared about how God’s grace had brought them through this most difficult of circumstances. Grandpa even went as far as to say that “death has lost it’s sting.” and Lou agreed. These two saints of the church spent the better part of a half hour retelling the story of God’s great blessings of their lives, stories of faithfulness, prayer, and a healthy longing for the next life. It was simply beautiful.
After this I went home to help host another group in my home for a night of fellowship, food, and games. This group consists of young families who live in a very different place in the life span. They are the newly married, the parents of newborns and elementary school kids, and one couple has a newly adopted Ethiopian child whose eyes are 50,000 miles deep and has me firmly wrapped around her chubby little finger. Less than a year ago she was developing in her mother’s womb. A child of a child, perhaps unwanted and certainly unplanned for. At the same time here in the states, a couple who I count as friends, allowed God to place a longing in their hearts to adopt and they took action on that call. Soon God connected these two families and after the forever long wait that an overseas adoption takes, they were finally united as a family.
I was able to be at the airport to welcome them home, I saw the miraculous connection between this 7 month old precious brown child when she saw her older fair skinned sister whom she had only seen in a photograph. It was an immediate connection, the love and affection were genuine. It was a God moment there in the airport that Friday night in Springfield. God brought together a life that was destined for only God knows what, with a family that had a deep gift of love to give. Love brought them together, love will continue to see them through.
As I reflect on both of these experiences, I contrast these differing life experinces. On one hand are those looking back on a lifetime full of blessings. They are able to look back and see where God’s hand was moving even in times of duress and pain, to bring them to a place of great blessing where they could know him more. On the other is this young life who at less than a year has already experienced God’s gracious hand of blessing. I think about how the future of this world will unfold and about what changes those big brown eyes will see. Will she have those same stories of God’s provision, of the moving of that great unseen hand? Will my own grandchildren visit her in a nursing home to hear the stories of God’s faithfulness through the years? I believe the answer is yes. It is my great hope for this child as her pastor that she will come to know and follow Christ at an early age and that her life will continue to be a great testimony to His goodness and provision.
With all the uncertainty of this day and age how can I make a statement like that? I write these words with the confident expectancy that these good and great things will be a part of her life. I write these words in hope born from my own experience nourished by the testimonies of those who have already tread down these paths. This is the same hope we reflect upon in this Advent season. The hope that a redeemer is coming. The hope that change for the better is upon the horizon. The hope that our great God who walks with us through a lifetime of service and who brings families together across the ocean binding them with the strong threads of love is also working even now on our behalf for our good. That is what this season is all about, our challenge is to not let hope slip away but to hold tightly to it in faith that one day we may see God.
My prayer today is that I may live a life that blesses others as I look back upon God’s graciousness in my life. That I may shine a light of hope even now into the darkness. Take time to reflect on hope in this first week of Advent.
Grace and Peace,