Today marks the beginning of Advent. In any other year, we would be physically present for the lighting of the first Advent candle, the candle that is to signify hope. The word ‘sad’ doesn’t do this year justice, and the reality that we won’t be able to have a ‘normal’ Christmas, complete with carol singing, and our regular Christmas services, leaves me feeling more than simply sad. This year has been immensely complex and devastating for so many people. We have much to give thanks for, but much to be sad about. The reality of a global pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy, on people’s confidence and mental health, and has, of course, led to the untimely deaths of thousands of people.
Over the past few weeks, however, the tone has shifted significantly as we are now told there is hope. Several vaccines have made their way onto the final stages of approval, some with over a 95% success rate. This is hope indeed. Hope of normality once again. The hope of a future beyond COVID-19. And hope, in particular, for the most vulnerable of society. I’m delighted at this news – but it has set me thinking: if we are given so much hope at the arrival of a vaccine, how much MORE should we receive hope because of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus?
We celebrate the vaccines, as we should, because they give us the potential of a future beyond the coronavirus. We celebrate the coming of Jesus because through Him we have the certain hope of eternal life, forever living in the presence of God. Which is greater? Which matters more to you right now? It’s a challenging question to think about, and it needn’t be an either-or decision. But what hope does Jesus give you, especially in times like these? A vaccine will help protect you from a virus. Jesus gives us a secure future that no-one can steal; not a virus, not a thief, nor even death itself. That kind of hope is priceless. That is why Paul asks God to give His people hope (Romans 15:13):
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we light the candle this morning, let us ask God to fill us with the hope found only in Jesus once again.