Hope: to expect with confidence

We came home Friday evening to a clean and orderly house, which stayed that way for less than 24 hours.

Many years ago we recognized the insanity of bringing more Stuff into our home for December and January birthdays with Christmas sandwiched between without first ridding our home of some of our outgrown Stuff.

As we traveled last week, we had only Saturday to observe our annual Pre-Christmas Closet Clean-Out. This year Guy worked with his sons, setting a reasonable limit of Closet Only instead of Whole Room. I tackled an odd spot in our bedroom: both sides of our recliner where stuff tends to pile and my bookshelf/cupboard. Oh, and the Blouse section of my closet. Not enough by any means, but enough for one day.

This year I had a little extra inspiration from my college associate, Margot Starbuck, a super-creative, colorful and dynamic woman who also tells a great story. She wrote an article for Her.meneutics on getting rid of 1,000 things. I did not try to count the things we got rid of yesterday, so I have no idea how close we got to that number; it took Margot a few days, so I’m sure we had a few (hundred) things to go. And we did a bit of shuffling: at least one book went from my shelf to Teen’s, while my never-worn slippers went to Tween, for example. Still, we formed a sizable pile of donations for the Bay Area Rescue Mission.

My mom repeated a quote (author unknown) to me on Thanksgiving: “America is the only country with a day set aside to give thanks for what we have, celebrated by buying stuff we don’t need.” Right-o. “Need versus Want” is one of our family values, meaning we do what needs doing (homework, housework, etc) first before spending time on things we’d probably rather do; we spend money on what we need before buying what we want. Which means I’ve stayed out of stores this fall as we’ve been paying off our summer in Costa Rica and saving up for Disneyland and the holidays. And truly, we don’t need very much.

My favorite line from Margot’s article: “…I’d not recognized the weight I’d been carrying—of paying for the stuff, and caring for the stuff, and storing the stuff, and moving the stuff around in the front hall closet so I could reach the other stuff behind the first stuff.” Yes! While I admittedly still desire Stuff, I have little desire to be Stuff Manager.

As soon as yesterday’s Closet Clean-Out piles were sorted and stacked, the fall decor made for a new pile as out came the Christmas decorations. By this evening we hope to have the indoor decorations up (and clean and order restored); by next weekend we’ll have a lit and decorated tree.

Advent has begun.

“Advent” means “coming” in Latin and is the season in the Church calendar during which we prepare our hearts for the Lord’s coming, first on Christmas and ultimately as He ushers His people into eternity.

I did not grow up in a church that observed Advent, but I have come to love its intentionality. Christmas festivities make for lots of hustle and bustle – parties, baking, shopping, wrapping; the Christmas cards alone will take hours over weeks to create, order, address, stamp, mail. Advent invites me to pause in the midst of Christmas activities, to listen for His gentle whisper, to focus on the work He will do in my heart as I await His coming.

Before dinner tonight we will light the first candle of Advent. This year our church will focus on the theme of HOPE, and so our daily readings will also focus on hope. “Hope” means “to expect with confidence.” While we so often use it as a synonym for “wish” – “I’m wishing/hoping for a new car this Christmas!” – it is better understood as a synonym for “trust” – “I hope/trust in Jesus as my Savior.”

These readings have been written to guide you and your loved ones through the Advent season; you may use them with family, small group, or individually. May the God of hope clean out and fill up our hearts!

Week 1 – Hope of Israel
November 30-December 6

Read Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7

Candle lighting: Light the first candle.

Read: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The first candle represents the hope of Israel.

Imagine a midnight darkness that lasts all day. Imagine going to school or work in the dark; spending time with family and friends in the dark; living in constant, total darkness. That’s what life without hope is like. God promised to send His Son to bring light and hope into this dark world. God’s people hope for the arrival of this baby who will bring comfort, justice, strength and peace.

Pray: Dear God, thank you for promising light and hope for a dark world. Thank you for sending your Son to us. In the name of Jesus we hope and pray, Amen.

 

Throughout the Week//light the candle, read and discuss the daily Scripture and pray together.

Light the first candle as you say: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Read & Discuss:
Monday// Jeremiah 29:11// How do you feel knowing that God has plans for you?Tuesday// Psalm 71:5// When did you first put your hope in God?
Wednesday// Psalm 130:7// When have you experienced the Lord’s unfailing love?Thursday// Matthew 5:17// God kept His promise when He sent His Son, Jesus. How can that help you trust Him this week?
Friday// Matthew 22:36-39// What will you do today to love God, neighbor and self?Saturday// Luke 1:67-68// Jesus rescues us from sin. How has Jesus saved your life?

Pray: Dear God, thank you for promising light and hope for a dark world. Thank you for sending your Son to us. In the name of Jesus we hope and pray, Amen.

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