For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it it written, "Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name"; and again he says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people"; and again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him"; and again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope." May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second Sunday in Advent is a day on which we celebrate Hope. Advent is a time of waiting, and waiting is, in turn, a time for hoping. When we wait for something we are usually hoping for something - hoping for something good to happen, hoping to avoid something bad happening, or generally just hoping for the time of waiting to be over soon.
We all have experienced times of waiting in our lives - waiting for the baby to be born, waiting for the divorce papers to come through, waiting for the new job to start, waiting for the grief to subside. Whether we are waiting for or through something good or bad, we know that too long of time spent waiting can begin to wear on our souls. Too much waiting can start to tear at our hope - it gets raggedy at the edges, it loses its sparkle and shine. The darkness starts to creep in, earlier and earlier each day, and sometimes it feels like we might forget what we are waiting for, what we are hoping for.
In Advent, we are reminded what we are waiting for and hoping for beyond the trials and joys of our everyday lives. In Advent, we are waiting, and hoping, for Christ Jesus to come. We are waiting and hoping for Christ to come as the little child in the nativity story, and we are waiting and hoping for Christ to come to fulfill the promised kingdom. We light the candle of hope to remind us that the light will always outshine the darkness, that Christ will always come, that hope will always win.
May the words of Paul comfort us in this time of waiting - "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
God of hope, thank you for the gift of the Christ child, our light in the darkness. Help us to prepare our hearts for his coming, both as a child in the manger, and as the bringer of the kingdom. Help us to share the hope we find in you with all those around us. Amen.