Advent 2020 – Day 1
What a year this has been! For me, it began with three major spinal surgeries, but for my husband Gene, the year marked his graduation from this life to the next. As I have said on other occasions, Gene got the better end of the deal. He no longer has to wear a face mask, socially distance himself from Jesus, or worry about election results. The coming weeks will mark Gene’s first Christmas in Heaven, something he looked forward to and hoped for all his life.
Advent is that time of year when we all hope for something that will arrive in the future, specifically the birth of Christ at Christmas, but also we have a hope of being with him forever in Heaven. With that thought in mind and also considering the ever-present COVID pandemic, I introduce the theme of Advent 2020: “HOPE.”
In the days ahead, we will explore the idea of hope, what the word means, what we are yearning for, and how we hold on to hope when our world seems to be crumbling around us. For today, however, meditate on this one fact: “Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:5)
People may disappoint us but when God promises something, our hope is never frustrated. We can be confident that God will come through!
(Come back tomorrow to join me for the next installment in this study of hope!)
Advent 2020 – Day 2
Thank you for returning as we start this 2020 Advent journey on the theme of HOPE.
My Texas grandchildren are named Simeon and Anna Hope. My son and his wife named their son and daughter for the two people whom Mary and Joseph met in the Temple when they went to dedicate their son Jesus.
Luke 2 describes Simeon as “a righteous and devout man. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and he eagerly expected the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.” Simeon had waited many years and hoped to see the Messiah before he died.
Anna was also in the Temple that day. A widow, 84 years old, she saw the baby and immediately began to talk “about Jesus to everyone who had been waiting for the promised King to come and deliver Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38) Like Simeon, Anna hoped that Jesus would deliver Israel.
The Hebrew word for hope is tikvah, and it conveys a sense of expectation, of expectancy. It means “the thing that I long for.” In Psalm 130:5,6 says, “I am counting on the Lord…I have put my hope in His Word. I long for the Lord…more than sentries long for the dawn.”
As Christmas arrives this year, what is on your wish list? What do you hope for? Is it a new gadget, a vague feeling or is it something your heart truly yearns for?
Advent 2020 – Day 3
Welcome back to day 3 of our Advent series on the theme of HOPE. Feel free to invite a friend to join us on this journey!
When I begin a Bible study of a topic like hope, the first tool I reach for is my concordance. When I looked up the word “hope” in this index of all the words in the Bible, I was surprised to find that the word doesn’t appear in the Scriptures until the book of Ruth, and from there it jumps to the book of Job. Nothing about hope in the first seven books of the Bible? The word first appears in the story of Ruth, after a time when Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi has suffered through a famine and then the loss of her husband and both sons. And in Job, we find a man who has lost his family, his crops, his herds and his health.
Having just lost my husband, I understand their grief but also their need for hope. What is it about hard times that causes us to hope? If everything is going fine, then we have no need to hope for more. But when we are at the nadir of our difficulties, we yearn for health, we hope for restoration. In the depths of despair, Job says, “Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant my hope.” (Job 6:8)
When the prophet Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah was also in the pit of despair. His entire culture had been destroyed by the Babylonians. These invaders had burned the Temple, destroyed the walls of Jerusalem, and enslaved Jeremiah’s people. The prophet cried out, “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time…yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness.” (3:19-22)
Has COVID worn you down? Will you be alone at the holidays? Reach into your Bible today and find the Author of Hope.
Advent 2020 – Day 4
Hello to all those joining us today for the first time. We are on Day 4 of our journey through Advent focusing on the theme of HOPE.
For months the news of COVID deaths – of which my husband Gene was one – has cast a dark shadow over our land. Churches and schools have closed. People have canceled Christmas plans to gather with family and friends. Recently, however, the possibility of a new COVID vaccine has given hope to our nation. The stock market rises. People get careless about wearing face masks. But those hopes are only temporary. Another virus will emerge. The stock market which rose one day will fall the next. Our hopes turn out to be temporary.
When Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi heads back to her homeland, alone and penniless, Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah travel with her. Naomi encourages them to turn back and return to their families. Normally, if one of her sons had died, the other son would marry the widow of his brother and provide for her. But Naomi has no more sons. “Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes…even if I said I have hope, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up?” (Ruth 1:11-13) Naomi does not encourage false hopes.
False hopes result in disappointment and depression. Do we place our hope in a man-made vaccine to deliver us from this year’s virus or in a Bethlehem baby who delivers us for all eternity?
Advent 2020 – Day 5
Welcome back to Day 5 on our journey exploring the Advent theme of HOPE.
At the memorial service for my husband, my son-in-law Anthony shared his memories of being a student in Gene’s classroom. Anthony explained that sometimes as he listened to lectures from his professors, he would hear them say something that did not ring true, and Anthony assumed that the professor had simply made an error. But when Anthony raised his hand in Gene’s class to point out something he assumed had been said in error, he learned that Gene had not made a mistake. Instead, Anthony discovered that his own assumption was wrong, based on incomplete knowledge.
Some people make the same mistake when it comes to faith in Christ. They assume they know more than those who have walked in faith for entire lifetimes. They assume that our hope of eternal life is foolishness. In 1 Cor. 3:18-19, the Apostle Paul refuted that sentiment, saying, “Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, ‘He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.’”
False hopes (see yesterday’s post) are different from false assumptions about hope. My husband Gene was a brilliant man by this world’s standards. He diligently studied scripture. He realized he had only a partial knowledge of all that God was, but Gene knew enough to be confident and have a clear hope in the resurrection.
As Christmas approaches this year, are you wise enough to have hope in all God’s promises? Which of those promises give you confidence for the future? (One of my favorites is in Isaiah 46:3,4.) Why not write out the promise in scripture that means most to you and memorize it as your “thank you” to God this season?
Advent 2020 – Day 6
Welcome back for Day 6 in this series of Advent devotions on the theme of HOPE. Over the past two days we have looked at false hopes and false assumptions about hope, and today we’ll see one final false premise regarding hope: Some people look to the wrong source for hope.
In the Old Testament we often read about people who put their hopes in wooden idols covered with a veneer of gold. We may smirk as we read, thinking how foolish these people were to put their hopes in something they themselves had created, an idol they had to carry from place to place, an idol that could not speak or breathe. We don’t worship idols. Or do we?
In Job 31:24,25, the author asks, “Have I put my hope in money or felt secure because of my gold? Have I gloated about my wealth and all that I own?”
Are people any different from those Job spoke of when folks today rest their hopes on their stock portfolio or their bank account? They take pride in owning a home that offers security against inflation. Or they hope that the physical health they have today will guard them against COVID, heart attacks or whatever the future brings? Gold and money, houses and land, exercise and right eating…each can provide a brief measure of hope but unless we look to the only true source of hope, we will never experience lasting peace.
This season, are you relying on your financial acumen and business plan to protect you in the future, or is the source of your hope firmly grounded in the salvation God has provided in Jesus Christ? Many of us give a financial gift during the Christmas season that offers a brief but tangible measure of hope to someone less fortunate than ourselves. Why not also speak to someone today of the one hope that offers eternal joy?
Advent 2020 – Day 7
With so few Christmas parties and concerts this year due to COVID, my desire is that these brief thoughts each day during Advent continue to focus your thoughts on HOPE.
Over the past few days, we have seen the negative side of hope: the results of false hopes, false assumptions about hope and false sources of hope. Have you ever noticed that no one ever hopes for something negative like famines, floods or plagues?
Now it is time to turn our thoughts to the positive features of hope. Hopes are always set upon something positive, something we think will benefit us or those we love in some way. Children hope for new toys at Christmas, toys in packages that they will rip open on the 25th. For believers, however, the promise of eternal life with Christ is the greatest hope that we have. This hope is not based on wishful thinking but firmly grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Heb. 6:9 tells us, “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives. It is safe and sure, and passes through the curtain of the heavenly temple into the innermost sanctuary.” and in 1 Pet. 1:21, we learn that Jesus’ resurrection is the basis of our hope: “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from death and gave him glory; and so your faith and hope are fixed on God.”
Why not find some small item that symbolizes your hope in the resurrection, wrap it in a box with Christmas paper, and put it under the tree? When you open it on Christmas Day, explain to those around you how it represents your hope of eternal life with Christ.
Advent 2020 – Day 8
You came back! Thanks for joining us for Day 8 of these Advent devotionals on HOPE.
People know that my husband died of COVID this year. They seem to walk on tiptoe around me, expecting me to take the role of grieving widow when in reality, most days I am fine. Yes, I have down times when I am overcome with tears, but I can hardly mourn when I know Gene is safe in Heaven with the Lord he served. And I will see him again!
Sometimes we think that Jesus was always upbeat, that he never grieved or felt despondent. Yet we remember he wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. We know he mourned as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem and yearned for all to come to him for salvation. Still, even in the depths of pain on the cross, Jesus had hope.
In Ps. 16:9,10 (and quoted again in Acts 2), we see Jesus had hope in the resurrection before he ever came to earth. Psalm 16 was written hundreds of years before Jesus arrived as a baby in a stable at Bethlehem. The psalm says, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For you will not leave my soul in hell; neither will you suffer your Holy One to see decay.”
If Jesus relied on hope to see him through hard times, how much more must we need it! Jesus gave us permission to grieve, as I do this year after losing Gene, but scriptures also give us reason to hope. Why not read all of Psalm 16 today and make a list of the things therein that gave the psalmist reasons to hope? Can you celebrate those reasons this Christmas?
Advent 2020 – Day 9
Here we are together again to learn something more about HOPE in this Advent series of devotionals.
A friend of mine had to spend Christmas in jail last year. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how difficult that was for him. To have been condemned in a public court of law, to be far from family, to suffer in isolation, to feel humiliated. And then came COVID, and with it our own isolation and separation from family members. I, at least, was able to “suffer” in the comfort of my own home.
Paul was on trial in Acts 26:6-8. He stood before the king and said, “I am on trial because I am looking to the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors . . . Yet, O king, [my accusers] say it is wrong for me to have this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?”
All of us will one day stand on trial in God’s courtroom of judgment. None of us looks forward to that fearsome Day of Judgment, certainly not as it is described in the book of Joel. As Joel 3:16 says, “The Lord’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. The Lord will be a hope for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.” When we stand there with our knees shaking, our hope in Christ will become real: We will not be condemned or humiliated. And instead of being separated from family and being sentenced to isolation, we will walk into the most amazing family reunion of all, including all nations!
Each of us have family members who have preceded us to Heaven. Take a moment today and thank God for their lives. Then listen for about 3 minutes to the following link
And then give thanks for your own hope!
Advent 2020 – Day 10
We are not even halfway through Advent! Will Christmas ever arrive? I “HOPE” so!
When you were a child, did you ever make construction-paper chains to count down the days until Christmas? You knew the days would eventually pass and Christmas would come, but did it seem like the days could never go by fast enough?
That is how it is with hope. It requires patience. Moses promised his people that they would enter the promised land…after forty years in the wilderness. The prophet Jeremiah promised his people that one day they would return from captivity and once again live in their land…after seventy years in Babylon. Isaiah promised a Redeemer would come…and he did, hundreds of years after the prophet had died.
In Rom. 8:23-25, Paul wrote, “Even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don’t need to hope for it.”
Again, Paul wrote in Romans 15:4, “These things were written in the scriptures long ago to teach us. They give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises.”
If you find yourself wishing time would go by faster, that the COVID restrictions would end more quickly, that the vaccine would be offered sooner, that you could open those packages accumulating under the Christmas tree, then set aside time today to slow down. Take a walk outside: Look at our world through God’s eyes and listen to the sounds with God’s ears.
Advent 2020 – Day 11
Thanks for coming back to learn more about HOPE through this Advent series of devotionals.
Did you ever make up a Christmas wish list when you were a child? Most of us grew up also making a wish before blowing out the candles on our birthday cake. As we go through this study on hope, have you wondered what the difference is between wishing and hoping?
When I asked Google about the difference, I got this reply: “The difference between hoping and wishing is that hope comes from real, objective reasons that the future is going to be different from the past. Anything other than that is simply a wish that comes from your desires.”
Yesterday, we saw that patience is an important element of hope, but there is another element that is fundamental, and it separates hope from a mere wish. What is that other element that walks with patience and hope? Faith! As Hebrews 11:1 says, “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” I like that definition. Confident assurance!
None of us have yet seen Heaven, yet we believe that it is objectively real and we will go there one day. When that day arrives, we will no longer need either faith or hope. Both will already be fulfilled in Heaven. That is why, in 1 Corinthians 13:13, we see that three things are essential – faith, hope and love – but the greatest of these is love. Why? Because love alone continues on through eternity.
Take time today to close your eyes. You can’t see the things in the room around you, but are they any less real? Let’s fix our hope on those things we cannot yet see but which are no less real!
Advent 2020 – Day 12
Thank you for returning here for another installment on our Advent study of HOPE.
Christmas is full of laughter and lights, shopping and songs, friends and family, but it is not a joyous time for everyone. So many have lost loved ones this year to COVID, including me.
Grief is a strange critter. It sneaks up on you at unexpected moments and then jumps out to knock the wind out of you. One moment I can be perfectly fine and then a minute later I can be in tears when a small object triggers a memory of my husband. I read an article and turn to share it with Gene and discover he is not there. I laugh when I read a joke and realize I am laughing alone. Grief could lead to depression unless we have hope.
A special blessing walks with hope: God’s comfort. Paul, in writing 1 Thess. 4:13, said those who have faith in Christ do not grieve as those without hope. Later he assured the Thessalonians in a second letter that God would console them as they faced trials: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father – who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope – comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.”
Mary and Joseph experienced stress as they made do with shelter in a stable and placed their newborn son in a manger, but they also sensed God’s comfort. I have experienced grief first hand in recent months, but I also have felt my Father’s gentle touch. That comfort makes his promises about heaven more real, my hope more firm.
Who in your world has suffered a sad loss this year? Does a neighbor need a word of comfort in their first Christmas season alone? Make a phone call. Pass along the hope and comfort that lie within you!
Advent 2020 – Day 13
We are now halfway through Advent! Are you ready for another devotional thought about HOPE?
Hope can be a very abstract concept. It is all very well to hope for something that will occur far in the future and even have faith that one day it might come to pass, but what about the situations we face right now? How does having hope impact our life today in 2020?
Imagine, for example, that, despite our hope, we had to wait until we got to Heaven to know for sure that we have been forgiven. What a heavy burden to carry guilt day after day. But we don’t have to wait that long. We who have hope of redemption can know we have forgiveness right now.
Psalm 130:4,7,8 tells us, “There is forgiveness with you, Lord. . . .O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. He himself will free Israel from every kind of sin.” Did you notice the grammatical tenses there? Hope speaks of a future when, yes, he will free Israel from every kind of sin, but the psalmist, along with hope, speaks of forgiveness in the present, and redemption is something that overflows in us right now!
Have you exploded in impatience this season, taking things out on those you love most? Are you weighed down thinking about all the times you have failed God, times you have disappointed him? An old Christmas carol says, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.”
Our hope of redemption is not reserved for some vague time in the future. We do not have to carry that heavy burden of guilt with us until we the day we die and finally enter heaven’s gates. We don’t even have to wait until December 25th to open this gift from Jesus! We can experience the full joy of Christmas today because along with our hope comes the ever-present promise of God’s forgiveness. Now, whom can you forgive?
Advent 2020 – Day 14
Glad you have returned for today’s Advent devotional. Are you ready for another gift that comes along with HOPE?
A person who has forgiveness for their past and hope for the future also enjoys confidence to face whatever lies before them today. Many places, where older translations of the Bible used the word ‘hope,’ the newer translations now use ‘confidence.’ For example, it says in 1 Thes. 5:8, “Let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.” And again in Titus 3:7, “Because of his grace, he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
Long ago, I memorized Psalm 27. The psalmist cries out and says that the only thing he hopes for – the thing he most yearns for – is to spend all the days of his life delighting in the Lord’s presence. But he also declares that when troubles come, when enemies advance against him and when armies surround him, even then he will be confident. And he ends the psalm declaring again, “I am confident that I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.” Not just sometime in the future, but right now, in the land of the living!
This past year, my son John took on heavy responsibilities as head of his math department at a large high school. With COVID raging, he has had to support all his teachers as they transitioned to on-line learning. Early in the Fall semester, John lost his father to COVID. Then recently, John’s basement has had to be jack-hammered to replace old iron pipes that have rusted and become clogged. The stress could overwhelm him, but, like the psalmist, John has confidence that God will not forsake him in the day of trouble.
How about you? Make a list of all the causes of stress that weigh you down this season. Then take a large marking pen and write the word ‘confidence’ across the list. Confidence for today is an offshoot of our hope for tomorrow!
Advent 2020 – Day 15
Returning to learn another reward of HOPE? Read on!
When I was a child, our family had a summer home by a lake in New England. Violent electrical storms would sometimes whip up waves on the lake and strike trees along the shore. On those evenings, my parents would turn on our kerosene lamps and gather us children on the porch of our home. There, snuggled under quilts and watching the lightning play on the water, I felt secure. With my parents’ arms around me, I sensed their love and protection.
When we know God’s forgiveness and have hope for the future, we not only have new confidence (see yesterday’s post), but we are able to experience God’s incredible love that surrounds us. In Psalm 33, the psalmist gives a long list of things God does for those “who hope for his lovingkindness.” These blessings include delivering us from death, keeping us safe from famine, being our help and shield, and giving us joy. But the psalm concludes by saying, “Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” Because of our hope is in him, he puts his arms around us and hugs us with his love.
During COVID, health department officials have repeatedly asked us to socially distance ourselves. No hugs! My daughter was out of state, but she mailed a homemade card to me. When I opened it, there was a photo of my daughter and paper arms popped open to give me a hug. Is there someone you know who needs a hug? Share a measure of God’s immense love with that person today. If you can’t hug, pass on a tasty gift of chocolate!
Advent 2020 – Day 16
Take a seat and let’s continue our trip through Advent. We still have more rewards of HOPE to discover!
My son John delights in his children. He tosses little Lydia in the air and she whoops with excitement. When he builds complex Rube Goldberg-type ramps with Ruthie and Heidi, their eyes glow with pleasure as the marbles roll through tunnels and over bridges, dash through spinners and knock down dominoes, only to then send a matchbox car racing across the room. John gets as much pleasure out of these activities as his girls.
What does this have to do with our theme of hope? We’ve seen that hope allows us to experience God’s care when we face troubles today, not just in the future. As we begin a new week, we see another result of hope: the assurance that, the Father loves us not in a remote sort of abstract way, but he delights in his children. God delights in us. Psalm 147:10,11 says, “The strength of a horse does not impress [God]; how puny in his sight is the strength of a man. Rather, the Lord’s delight is in those who honor him, in those who put their hope in his unfailing love.” And as Zephaniah 3:17 puts it, “He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”
What could be better than having the Sovereign Lord of the Universe delight in us? We don’t have to wait until we walk into heaven to see his smile and hear his laugh. When we put our hope in him we can experience those right now.
Can you think of a happy Christmas carol that you could sing today that might encourage those around you? You will find it encourages you too!
Advent 2020 – Day 17
Only one more week of Advent! Thanks for staying with me as we study the theme of HOPE.
A year ago, my husband Gene stayed with three of our grandsons for several days while their mother and father were away on a trip. Each day, Gene hoped to have a brief devotional time with the boys and share a story about how God had protected his life. As a child, Gene broke through the ice while walking on a local pond. As a college student, he fell asleep at the wheel of his VW bug and ran into the guardrails, totaling his vehicle, but not sustaining bodily injury. When up in a small plane flying over the Grand Canyon, his friend – the pilot! – fainted; Gene had to pilot the plane until his friend revived.
On the last day of his visit, as Gene prepared to leave my daughter’s house for our home, he was cleaning snow off his car. Suddenly he heard a loud CRACK above his head. A huge branch from a pine tree fell 30 feet and landed just a yard from where he was standing, missing both him and the car. One of the boys saw what happened and called out, “I guess God just saved your life again!”
When we hope in God, one of the other rewards of hope is God’s daily protection. In Psalm 33:16-19, the psalmist warns us, “The best-equipped army cannot save a king, . . .Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory – for in all its strength, it cannot save you – but the Lord watches over those who fear him, over those who hope in his unfailing love. He rescues them from death.” When we hope in God, his eye is watching over us right now, not waiting until we safely arrive in heaven.
Think back today to times when God has protected you in the past and brought you safely to this day. Could you tell a story about one of those events to someone who needs encouragement to hope in God this Christmas?
Advent 2020 – Day 18
Yesterday, I shared some ways God protected my husband’s life, and I asked you to think about times when the Lord protected you. Now it is my turn. When I was in Mexico I took part in a five-month jungle training course. I hoped God would help me survive the rigors of the program!
One week, we all went on a river trip. We used huge dugout canoes that each held eight people. Because we had to stand up to paddle, our director warned us that if we went through rapids, hit a rock and fell out, we should fall out upstream so the canoe would not crush us. Sure enough our canoe hit a rock and one person fell out…upstream. With that person’s weight gone, the canoe was lighter and rose up and plunged downstream. We hit a dead tree trunk and another person fell out… upstream.
Then we crashed into a second rock shelf. I flew out of the canoe, landing…downstream. The director of the trip was standing in the front of our canoe, and all he could see was that the canoe, with its several tons of mahogany, had landed smack on top of me. The director’s face was white as Moses’ beard.
But by some miracle, my heavy paddle was still in my hand and came between me and the oncoming canoe, creating a wedge that took the brunt of the impact. The Lord protected me from being crushed or paralyzed. I quickly clambered out and stood up with a shout of praise. As I continued through those five months of training, the Lord saved my life multiple times, from fires, horse hooves, snakes and even explosions. Each time I praised God for his watchful care.
One of the other results of having hope in God is praise. As Psalm 71:14 says, “I will keep on hoping for you to help me; I will praise you more and more!” This Christmas, are you praising him more and more?
Advent 2020 – Day 19
Have you finished your shopping? Wrapped your gifts? Mailed them off? No? Feeling tense? Take a few moments here to sit down with a hot cup of cocoa and read another Advent devotional on HOPE.
After months of sheltering in place, many people living alone are experiencing forms of stress and depression, and not just because they haven’t bought all their Christmas gifts or won’t be able to have their usual family gatherings. Many people have become anxious about stepping outside their own door. Even pets can become clingy during this period. With all this as a backdrop, it is hard to imagine this Christmas being full of joy.
I felt tempted to join that crowd earlier this month. After I took a friend to get her COVID test and that test came back positive, I was asked to quarantine for fourteen days. At first, I was frustrated. I was angry. I became depressed. Why did I have to go through quarantine again? I had already had COVID. And why was I so upset? Why? Because the tears that fell reminded me of my first round of quarantine, the three weeks when my husband was in the hospital dying of COVID and I could not even visit him.
Yet scripture tells us that having happiness is one of the results of having hope. In Psalm 146:5, we learn, “Happy are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” Again in Prov. 10:28, we read, “The hopes of the godly result in happiness.”
How can we find that happiness when everything around us seems to be rushing toward sadness? For me, happiness came from knowing I had cared for my friend when she was sick and had no one else nearby to take her to the urgent care center. Despite the subsequent quarantine, I would make the same choice again. But far more important is the hope we both share in God. Because we have hope, we now also share the happiness of seeing her well again in time to celebrate Christmas.
Is there a special Christmas gift from the Lord that you have overlooked? I “hope” you find it in your home, at work or in your neighborhood.
Advent 2020 – Day 20
Thank you for staying with me throughout this Advent series on HOPE. This time, we will find yet another result of our hope in Christ.
I mentioned a friend of mine who is recovering from COVID. She hasn’t had energy to do any holiday shopping. Like others who have contracted this awful virus, she is still dealing with the residual effects of COVID. She tried walking to our mailboxes recently and could barely make it back to her apartment. Her legs felt like jelly. That one brief trip exhausted her.
One of the special results of hope is renewed strength. In Isaiah 40:31, the prophet writes, “Those who hope in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to be exhausted. He had been shipwrecked, beaten, whipped, stoned. Yet in 2 Cor. 4:16-18, he encouraged his readers with these words: “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long . . . So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
Are you exhausted from exploring the malls or searching the internet for just the right Christmas gift for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list? Take a moment to pray and ask God to renew not merely your body but also your spirit. (And it is okay to ask Him for help in finding that perfect gift idea!)
Advent 2020 – Day 21
Today is the shortest day of the year, so let’s not waste time. Here is a new twist on HOPE.
For her husband and three teenage boys, my daughter Prisca made 13 pounds of cranberry relish the week before Thanksgiving. By the time the holiday rolled around, only 2 pounds were left, a quantity she had managed to hoard for the holiday meal. And since then she has made another 13 pounds of relish. It won’t last until Christmas. And last night? Her oldest ate almost a pound of salmon, a hot dog and a hamburger for supper. The next boy ate almost as much and appeared in the kitchen an hour later to cut up an orange for a snack! Her growing boys are like hungry hippos!
What feeds hope? We all hunger for it, but how do we foster the quality of hope in our lives? Are we as hungry for hope as Prisca’s boys are each day for food?
According to Rom. 15:4, one seed for growing hope lies in reading scripture. “Such things were written in the scriptures long ago to teach us. And the scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
In scripture, we see the panoramic view of history. From Genesis to Malachi, we see a story unfolding that leads up to a stable in Bethlehem. The apostle Paul understood the value of studying scripture and encouraged his disciple Timothy to do the same.
Why not take time today to open your Bible and read a chapter of scripture? May I suggest the following verses that Paul wrote to his adopted son in 2 Timothy 3:10-17?
Advent 2020 – Day 22
Can you feel the excitement in the air? Christmas is drawing near. Thanks for continuing to read these brief Advent thoughts on HOPE.
Most of us look forward to a feast at Christmas. This year, due to COVID, things will be different from other times in the past. Some relatives have moved on, to celebrate the holiday in heaven. Others live out of state and cannot visit this year. But many of us will still enjoy eating a holiday ham with all the trimmings on the table before us.
What feeds hope? We asked that question yesterday and found one answer lies in studying promises in scripture. But scripture was written long ago. Is God still active? Psalm 78:7 hints at another source that feeds our hope: “So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.” Remembering what God has done in our own lives, in our generation, also encourages hope for future.
Jeremiah 29:11,12 assures us that he continues his work today: “I know the plans I have for you – says the Lord – They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.”
Think back on the past year. Can you remember a specific example of a time when you prayed and God shed some extraordinary blessing on your life? Did it make your hope stronger? Why not take time to write him a brief thank-you note? And don’t forget to thank him for listening!
Advent 2020 – Day 23
It may sound strange, but I often feel a certain letdown when we draw near to the end of Advent. These devotionals give a special focus to my days. I “HOPE” you feel the same way. Yet, we can’t forget that the climax of this season still lies ahead!
Some years ago, I was at a doctor’s appointment. In the examination room, I had undressed and put on the threadbare hospital gown with useless ties that did nothing to preserve modesty. Sitting on the cold table, I shivered as I waited for my physician to arrive and examine me. Moments later, my doctor entered the room. I have never forgotten his first question. As he busied himself organizing his medical instruments, he turned and asked me, “So what makes students at a Christian college any different from students elsewhere?”
Feeling vulnerable sitting there in the faded gown that gaped open in the back, I recall shooting a brief prayer up to heaven. “Here, Lord? Now? Of all times, you want me to share a testimony of faith now?”
I am glad I spoke of the reason for my hope that day because less than a year later, before my next appointment, that doctor died.
Today, I offer you another passage that speaks powerfully to me. In the brief epistle of 1 Peter, the author adjures his readers in the following way: “If you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15)
As you celebrate Christmas and a new year begins, never forget: Be ready at all times to explain your hope! ‘Hope’-fully these Advent 24 devotionals will have offered you a way to do that!
Advent 2020 – Day 24
And now we come to the end of another Advent series. As we wrap up this collection of devotionals on HOPE, I challenge you to look at the host of other verses in Scripture that mention the topic of hope.
As you all know by now, last August, my husband Gene contracted the coronavirus and went into the hospital on the day of our 46th wedding anniversary. As the EMTs bundled him on to a gurney and began pushing him out the door, none of us realized that was the last time I would see him alive. Thankfully, we both had already said we loved each other. There were no regrets over things said or left unsaid.
Three weeks after entering the hospital, Gene died. This year, he will celebrate his first Christmas in heaven. What a climax to a life lived well! And because we both had hope of forgiveness and eternal life in heaven, I know we will meet again.
Proverbs 11:7 is blunt when it states that “the hopes of the wicked die with them for they rely on their own feeble strength.” Another passage, Isaiah 38:18,19, tells us, “The dead cannot praise you . . . Those that go down to destruction can no longer hope in your faithfulness. Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation can make known your faithfulness to the next.”
Tomorrow we welcome the Babe of Bethlehem, the HOPE of all the nations. Though my husband has already moved on to heaven, we who remain alive still have a responsibility. As you celebrate Christmas and open gifts, don’t forget to pass on the greatest gift to the next generation…the gift of HOPE found in Jesus Christ!
(Join me here again next year for another Advent and a new theme!)