Think about the encounters with Jesus discussed throughout the week: John the Baptist, the Samaritan woman, the demon-possessed man, and the bleeding woman. Today, let’s take some time to press into these stories in a deeper way. Ask God to reveal His truth to you through them, to encourage and challenge you with His Word.
The Advent wreath typically contains four candles representing the four weeks leading up to Christmas, with one candle in the middle symbolizing Christ’s birth. Each Sunday of Advent, a candle is lit as a symbolic way to prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus. Each candle represents a theme of Advent. On the fifth day of each week of this study, we will ponder the Jesus encounters discussed throughout the week through the lens of one of those Advent themes. The first candle in the wreath symbolizes hope.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hope as “cherishing a desire with anticipation,” “to want something to happen or to be true,” “to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment,” and “to expect with confidence.” After reading these definitions of hope, do you feel like you have hope today? If so, where does your hope come from, and what are you hoping for? If not, what is stealing your hope? Living in a world full of tragedies, sadness, death, chaos, hurt, unmet expectations, disappointments, hardships, and more can make hope hard to find at times. Do you have hope for tomorrow? Is it possible to have hope even when you feel hopeless?
This Advent season, we can find hope in Christ—in the fact that God fulfilled His promise of sending the Savior, His Son Jesus Christ, to redeem all of mankind through His life, death, and resurrection (1 John 4:14). And if God was faithful to this promise, we can trust Him to fulfill the promise that Jesus will return one day and make all things right (Hebrews 9:28). In this promise, our hope rests, as we long for the day when there will be no more mourning or death and no need for the sun or moon because Jesus will be the light (Revelation 21:4, 23).
First Peter 1:3–5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We have a living hope hidden within the work of Jesus Christ, sealed within a heavenly inheritance that cannot be destroyed. This is our hope. This is how we continue to move forward even in the midst of a season of hopelessness. We must daily cling to this living hope found in the God of all hope, Jesus Christ.
Consider how the encounters discussed throughout this week produced hope. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, the hope of Israel, the hope of the world, the long-awaited Savior. Imagine the hope John must have felt as He baptized Jesus. The One, God’s Son, had arrived. A Savior who would restore our relationship with God.
The Samaritan woman longed for fulfillment her entire life and looked to the world for answers. Her longing for fulfillment continued because the world could not and cannot offer everlasting hope. Until she met Jesus at the well. Finally, hope became reality as her longing was fulfilled in the living water of Jesus.
The demon-possessed man was tormented by evil, constantly crying out, cutting himself with stones and living among the tombs. How he must have longed and hoped for peace, for a new life. Even in the most terrible situation, hope prevails through Jesus. Imagine how he must have felt when Jesus overcame the evil. Hope fulfilled—finally, peace.
The bleeding woman had sought out every medical possibility, looking for an answer, for healing, but nothing worked for twelve years. Imagine how she longed for healing, to live among community. And then she heard of Jesus and hoped He could do what she had heard. She pushed her way through the crowd, and with one touch, immediately she was healed. Imagine the hope restored as Jesus healed her.