Advent, Part 1: Hope
By Gavin Bennett & Joy Schlichter
Candle Lighting & Communion (2 minutes)
In the Advent season, lighting a candle is used to symbolize Jesus being the Light of the World who comes into our darkness. So grab any candle from somewhere in your house, dim the lights, light the candle, and take communion as one person reads the following prayer out loud:
God of Hope,
Your Son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us.
He is a sign of our hope,
Of your light coming into our darkness.
Help us to walk in that hope during the weeks of Advent.
May we celebrate the first coming of Jesus,
even as we await his return.
We pray all this in the name of Jesus, our Savior.
Read This Overview (5 min)
Each Sunday of Advent is meant to draw our attention to the realities of Jesus coming into our world, God’s incarnation. We are called to cultivate and align our hearts with those who first waited for the coming Messiah through our own practice of waiting. In the waiting of Advent we remember what was prophesied, promised, and realized in Jesus, and we anticipate his return, when he will set everything to right.
One of the gifts we receive from God in this waiting is hope. Hope, as we understand it in Scriptures, is the expectation of coming good based on the person and promises of God. A little bit of hope can cover over a whole lot of waiting. And in the stories of the Scriptures, we discover our rich heritage as a people who wait—from Abraham to the Prophets, Simeon and Anna to Paul, we find the invitation to wait with a hope in One who fulfills his promises. More than just helping us as we wait, hope also provides an opportunity of encounter with God.
Scripture Reading (5 min)
Each week of Advent, we want to read aloud a portion of the birth story of Jesus that helps us look deeper at each of the four themes of Advent (hope, peace, love, and joy).
Luke 2v22, 25-38
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Reflection Questions (30 min)
Spend some time working through the following questions:
- Can you identify with Anna or Simeon in their waiting? What stirred up in you as you heard this passage being read?
- What are you hoping for in this season?
- Where has your hope been unmet? Where have you felt disappointment?
- Where do you need help from the Spirit to hope with greater faith?
Practice For the Week Ahead (5 minutes)
Jesus came for everyone — adults and children alike — so this year our Advent practices will be inclusive of children! That said, there will be two sections in each Advent practice: one for families with children to work through and one for individuals without children to work through. The practices are essentially the same, just with more interactive elements in the children’s one. So whether you live by yourself in an apartment or with a house full of kiddos, there’s something this season for everyone.
Advent Practice for Families
If you haven’t discussed Advent with your child before, start with a moment to define the practice. (Keep in mind that the following is written at the Kindergarten level, so feel free to change it to help your child best understand and engage.)
Advent is a special time before Christmas where we remember the birth of Jesus. A long time ago, God promised he would send a Rescuer to fix everything in the world that was broken and make things whole again. God’s people waited a very long time for that Rescuer. Finally, after waiting for what felt like forever, the great rescuer came! He came in a way people wouldn’t expect: as a baby. Jesus is that Great Rescuer. During Advent, we remember how God’s people waited for Jesus for a long time. We light four candles to help us remember four very important things that Jesus brings us: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Next, grab a candle (any kind will do!). Invite your child to sit with you and to quiet their mind and their body. Once you’re ready you can read and do the following:
On the first week of Advent, we remember hope. [Light the candle or help your child light the candle.] Hope is the feeling when you’re waiting for something really good and trust deep in your heart that it could happen. Sometimes, when we’re sad, hope is that feeling we have when we’re looking forward to a time when we’re not sad anymore. Other times, you feel hope when you’re happy and excited about the future.
Ask your child if they’ve felt hope before and what they hoped for. Take time to listen and engage with their ideas. Share things you hope for, perhaps things you hope for in their lives as they grow. Write down or have your child draw the things that are shared and put the list in a place the whole family will regularly see it, like the refrigerator or front door.
Whenever we see our hope list, we can pray: “Thank you God! Thank you that I can hope in you!”
To close, pray a blessing over your child:
May you experience the hope of Jesus this Christmas. May you know that God always keeps his promises and that you can hope in Him.
Advent Practice for Individuals
Grab a candle (any kind will do!). Quiet your mind and body. Once you’re ready you can light the candle, remembering that on the first week of Advent, we remember hope. Hope is when we wait for something really good that we also believe could happen.
As you sit there, ask yourself what you are hoping for in this season. Write these things down and put the list in a place you will regularly see it, like the refrigerator or front door. Whenever you see your hope list, read each item and pray: “Thank you God that I can hope in you.”
Before ending your time, take some time to reflect on the truth that God always keeps his promises and that you can always find hope in Him.