Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and we will light our first candle, the candle that represents hope.
On Friday afternoon, at our drop in for vulnerable adults, M led our devotions and focused our thoughts on hope, and the idea of the rainbow, God's covenant promise, as a symbol of hope. It was a lovely, and moving act of worship.
Having begun my Advent pondering earlier than usual, with the Celtic Advent, I have already been thinking what it means to speak of Advent hope.
Hope in the deepening darkness of a northern hemisphere winter, as the daylight continues to decrease, that soon this will change, that light will return.
Hope in the metaphorical darkness of bereavement, illness, relationship breakdown, job loss, financial struggle, that things will get better, that 'the light at the end of the tunnel' has not, after all, 'been switched off'
But what is hope? Hope is tenacious (stubborn), resilient (stubborn), determined (you guessed it...).
Hope is a refusal to give up even when it feels that everything is hope-less. When the answer to prayer seems never to arrive. When the struggle feels endless. When disappointment or despair drive us to the brink .
Hope is a small word. It is also a weighty word.
Hope, for me, is well summed up as 'tracing rainbows through the rain'.
Today, we will light the candle of hope, and we will remember Abraham and Sarah, a couple who left their home on what must have seemed a fool's errand, trusting in the God who makes rainbows to fulfill seemingly impossible promises. A journey that lasted the rest of their lives. A journey in which disappointment, despair and disaster were all experienced.
I am reminded of a line from another old hymn that speaks of the challenges of real life and says 'that through it all hope's star shall shine, and I shall have my song to sing.'
God of hope, who, when all seems overwhelming or even hope-less
Fill us afresh with hope, glimpsed in the colourful defiance of a rainbow
Shining like a tiny star in the darkest of dark nights
And journey with us, wherever you lead us
Until we reach the place of your promise for us.