ADVENT CONNECTIONS 2016: Wondrous Hope


For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called
  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
  and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
  with justice and righteousness
  from that time on and forever.  Isaiah 9:6-7a
There he was, every day, endlessly shuffling around my in-laws’ extended-care home.  I guessed he was in his late 30’s; he didn’t seem at all unhappy, in fact, his face was pleasant in its simple-ness.  When you encountered him, you were greeted sincerely but briefly—granted only the smallest of a pause—for it seemed of utmost importance that he continue his peculiar lopsided journey of the halls.
As we expected, my father-in-law, Jake, died.  On that very day, the shuffling man halted and looked up at us, then, with clarity, earnestness and profound gentleness, expressed his sadness at Jake’s passing.  I don’t remember his words, but somehow, they blanketed us with consoling comfort.  They were words that inexplicably gifted us with hope . . . hope which had faded was wonderfully reawakened.
As I look back, I realize that we were granted a wondrous moment.  Wonder at such an unexpected gift during an extremely difficult time: wonder at its delivery—in utmost simplicity—and wonder at how God uses people, even unknown ones, to uncover hope amidst harsh reality.
Hope and wonder—such a strange pairing for Christmas!  Or is it?  It’s easy to see how wonder fits; the word saturates descriptions of Christmas.  Songs, paintings and books overflow with references to the wonder of Christmas.  Consider, also, Jesus’ birth announcement, a declaration boldly proclaimed by angels, brilliantly displayed in the heavens and received by startled shepherds.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10-12 
Yet, it was so much more—it was the coming of the promised Messiah, the Saviour eagerly awaited by the Israelites—the hope of Israel (Jer. 14:8; 17:13).  In a brief moment, a wondrous announcement fulfilled a prophecy and ended hundreds of years of hopeful waiting.  Indeed, hope, plus wonder, fits.
During Advent, we too, wait and hope.  Advent in its simplest definition is the arrival of a notable person or event.   Hope, then as now, often invites us to look forward with deep trust and confident expectation.  Hope waits as it anticipates its fulfillment in the future.  Such is the Advent season; we wait to celebrate Jesus’ birth and we wait expectantly for his return.
Prayer:  Father God, thank you for your gift of your son.  What can be more wondrous than celebrating our Saviour’s birth, Jesus, the hope of our world!  Prepare us through the Advent season to expectantly welcome Him.  May we see Jesus as we delight in the wonder of Christmas celebrations.  Cause us to be alert to the hope Jesus brings, to recognize hope even in unexpected circumstances and open us to receive and share our hope.  Amen.
Contributed by Daryl Ginter