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Lighting a Candle of Hope – Advent Begins

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the LORD, who remains faithful forever.    ~ Psalm 146:5-6 (NIV)

Christmas Advent has begun! The Season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.”

For Christians, this means preparing for the “coming” of Jesus as we celebrate His birth; and recognizing our need for Jesus as our Savior, we also anticipate the second coming of Christ,

“During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.”  (umc.org)

In those promises we find Hope.  In the season of Advent, we recognize the Hope we have in Christ.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the LORD, who remains faithful forever.    ~ Psalm 146:5-6 (NIV)

What is HOPE?  Hope is something we feel when we long for something.  I used to say I ‘wish’ for this or that.  Now my ‘wishes’ are replaced with hope.  What’s the difference?  Wishes are thoughts seeking luck.  Hope is a spiritual feeling that comes from my heart, based on faith, often wrapped in prayer, and is directed to God.  Hope is a positive, encouraging feeling I can share with others.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines hope as a “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises.  Biblical hope is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance.  More specifically, hope is the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future.”

We all need the true hope that is found in Christ, don’t we?  Some people need hope for healing and wellness, others need hope to overcome personal situations, or hope for loved ones and friends who are struggling.

There have been many times I’ve clung to hope – during times of financial difficulty, personal illness, when worried for loved ones.  I especially need to feel hope in times of uncertainty, like times when I worry about what tomorrow would bring, when I entertain too many thoughts of “what if…”, and when I feel overwhelmed by problems or situations that seem impossible and can’t’ imagine how things would work out.  Uncertainty can lead to many fears that cause worry and stress, but clinging to our Christian hope helps us overcome those fears and quiets our inner souls, allowing us to feel peace knowing our trust is in the Lord.

Advent reminds us of the Hope we have in Christ.  As stated above, His first coming was the fulfillment of what all that had been promised of the anticipated Messiah, and His time among us assured us of the promises He will fulfill in His second coming, giving us great Hope!

I used to hope in a questioning, asking way…a way that conveyed uncertainty, not confidence.  Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines hope is a “trustful expectation”…”a favorable outcome under God’s guidance”…and is about having confidence in God – as opposed to wishful thinking when we our thoughts based on anticipated luck.

As Christians, we are called to share the hope we have in Christ, so when others are struggling, hurting, depressed, or feeling overwhelmed, our ability to have  hope – confident expectations based on our faith – can lift them up and help them grow in faith.

Sometimes simple gestures can offer much needed hope to others.  A friend from church shared how she felt led to help a young woman begging for money.  My friend gave the woman money, and also took time to talk with her.  She learned the woman’s name and that she is 4-5 months pregnant, had been kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment, spent the previous night sleeping on a bench, and was trying to get into a trusted shelter for women. The woman asked my friend to pray for her.  It was nice that my friend could give the woman money, but her personal interaction with the woman gave her something more valuable and lasting than money.  The gift of money and time was a tangible offering of the love of Christ, giving Becky what she needed most – Hope. Knowing that someone cares about her and will be praying for her might change this woman’s life!

We were the recipients of a gift of hope when my son was very sick.  One of his teammates heard my husband expressing concern about how our son was losing weight and becoming weak.  The friend wanted to do something to help our son feel better and gain weight, so he asked his mom to take him to Krispy Kreme, then to our house so he could personally deliver a box of hot donuts. What a sweet thing to do!  That gesture of kindness told me God knew we were struggling and He sent my son’s friend to encourage us and lift our spirits, giving us hope! Danny Gokey’s song “Hope in Front of Me” was a blessing, too!

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says that Christians can have confidence in God because of the things He has done.  He has proven His strength, power and might.  For thousands of years God has made miracles happen and helped those who seemed hopeless and helpless to find a way, when there seemed to be no way.  The greatest proof we have that God is our one, true source of hope is the fulfillment of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  His resurrection after dying on the cross as a sacrifice for us “defeated the power of sin and death”, thereby giving us hope for the future.

“Given the assurance of hope, Christians live in the present with confidence and face the future with courage.  They can also meet trials triumphantly…Christian hope is the gift of God.”    (Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”  (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

During Advent and always, may you go forth being confident in the hope we have in Christ. 

God bless you and keep you! 

Renee Myers 11-29-15

For more about Advent or to read passages about the birth of Jesus, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com

 

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THANK YOU FOR OUR DAILY BREAD 

I read a story recently about orphans of WWII.

“During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve.  The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care.  But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night.  They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food.  Nothing seemed to reassure them.  Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime.  Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace.  All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”  (From the book “Sleeping with Bread” by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn, Paulist Press)

We all feel that way at times, don’t we?   Sometimes we need something to comfort us, something to hold onto.  I’ve felt that way many times in my life.  Most recently was on Friday night as I watched the horrific terrorist attacks taking place in Paris.  The attacks reminded me of when 9/11 happened here in the United States. It felt like the world was spinning out of control and I feared what would happen next.  I feared for the lives of our sons who were just 6 years old and 11 months old at the time. How could I go to sleep not knowing what would happen in the night? Would there be more attacks?  Would we be safe?  I needed comfort and something to hold onto.

We all have times of struggles, fear, worry, and loss.  In those times, like the orphans of WWII, we need comfort and something to hold onto.

According to the Bible, we DO have “pieces of bread” to hold onto because Jesus is our Bread of Life!

Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:31-35)

We might not be physically starving, but often our souls need spiritual refreshment – sometimes we need a spiritual IV!  Jesus is the answer.  In Him is the promise of life through His blessings of help, healing, strength, and hope.

We are not the only ones to struggle.  Jesus also knew what it was like to be hungry and feel weak.  After His baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  (Matthew 4:1-4.)

The Bible literally says in Matthew 4:2 that, after fasting  40 days and nights, “he was hungry.”   Satan knew Jesus was hungry, so his first temptation was an attempt to take advantage of Jesus’ physical weakness by tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread, but what was Jesus’ response?

Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

In His response, Jesus taught us that true sustenance is found in the Word of God. 

John 1:14 goes on to tell us that the Word of God is Jesus!

  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. “  (John 1:14-17)

True sustenance is found in the Word, and the Word is Jesus!  From the glory of the Father, through the Son, the Word became flesh!

Jesus confirms this when He calls Himself “the Bread of Life.” (John  6:35)

In the Lord’s prayer, the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Jesus says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 5:11) Jesus was petitioning for our daily physical needs to be met, but as we think of Jesus as the Bread of Life, we can pray this for our spiritual needs, and be reminded that we need to be fed daily in a spiritual way, too.

The orphans of WWII slept with pieces of bread to give them comfort so they could rest.  As Christians, we have bread to hold onto, too.  We have the true sustenance of Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I titled this message, “Thank You for Our Daily Bread.”  That’s the last line of a familiar dinnertime prayer.  I share it now to thank God for sending His only Son to be our Bread of Life.

God is great, and God is good, And we thank Him for our food,

By His hands we all are fed. Thank You for our Daily Bread.    Amen.

I would like to share “pieces of bread” with you.  If you send me an email, I will reply with a collection of Bible promises and encouragements that have been helpful to me.  They are prepared so that they can be kept in document form or cut into individual verses.   Individual verses can be bound together or kept in a “bread basket”.  Verses can be read daily and as needed – “pieces of bread” to hold onto.      ReneeMyers@carolina.rr.com

God bless you!

– Renee Myers  11-14-15

Go to http://www.BibleGateway.com to read Bible verses, commentaries, research topics, and much more!

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