Finding Faith: A light of hope in the darkness
"You don’t need to believe in the birth of Jesus to have hope, of course. But for billions of Christians worldwide on Sunday, we will light a candle symbolizing the hope that one day we can all agree to restore God’s creation, to feed the earth’s hungry, to clothe those who are naked and to care for the widow and orphan. "
On Sunday, Nov. 28, Christians worldwide will celebrate the start of their new liturgical (or church) year with the beginning of the season of Advent.
At our church, as will happen at countless other churches, we will ceremoniously light the first of five candles to be lit over the course of the next five weeks. The first four candles represent the four weeks of Advent, leading up to the lighting of the fifth candle, which is the Christ Candle.
The first candle of Advent is the symbolic “Candle of Hope,” and as a member of our congregation lights the candle they will read these words: “We hope that God will save us from hard times and painful lessons. Hope is the shape of our work and our words, while we wait for a future that only God knows.”
Could there be more fitting words this Advent season, as many of us are beseeching God to save us from ourselves, to save us from the division and conflict that riddle all aspects of our lives? You can’t miss it: We can’t seem to agree on anything from politics to religion to justice to the care of creation. It makes one want to run from the news and abandon social media. … Not an altogether terrible idea, but we’ll save that column for Lent!
Meanwhile, back here in Advent, Christians have been celebrating a season of both joy and expectation for centuries. As the practice of Advent developed, it became a season in which Christians both celebrated the coming birth of the Christ child, and simultaneously an act of waiting expectantly for Jesus’ second return.
So we are not only joyfully celebrating Jesus’ birth, but we are also preparing ourselves for Christ’s return. We celebrate the now and the future presence of Christ here on earth. And both are acts lived in hope, the most uniting of common human emotions. Because in a time when we can’t seem to agree on the simplest of things, our common hope leads us to believe that there can be a better tomorrow. Our common hope leads us to celebrate the birth 2,000 years ago of a Christ child who came to teach us mercy and tenderness.
You don’t need to believe in the birth of Jesus to have hope, of course. But for billions of Christians worldwide on Sunday, we will light a candle symbolizing the hope that one day we can all agree to restore God’s creation, to feed the earth’s hungry, to clothe those who are naked and to care for the widow and orphan. Because for hundreds of years, even when the world has lived through its darkest days, it’s that hope that has carried us through.
Devlyn Brooks, who works for Modulist, a Forum Communications Co.-owned company, is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Church of America. He serves as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minnesota. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments and story ideas.