Advent Week 1: Hope in the Darkness graphic with a depiction of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus

Advent 1: Hope in the Darkness

Step into Advent, but leave your preconceptions at the door. This isn’t just the warm-up act for Christmas; it’s a season that demands our full focus. While the first week of the Advent calendar is focused on “hope,” it’s not the fleeting or wishful thinking we often associate with the word. This is about a hope that’s as concrete as the ground beneath your feet, as real as the air you breathe. This hope is anchored in the prophecies of the Old Testament — promises made by a God who doesn’t just throw words into the wind. These prophets weren’t daydreamers; they were divine messengers, painting a picture of a future so bold and so radically different that it could only be orchestrated by the hand of God. This Advent, we’re not just counting down days; we’re stepping into a story of hope that has been unfolding from before the foundations of the world. It’s a hope that calls us to look forward with expectation, to prepare our hearts and minds for the reality of a promise fulfilled, the coming of a Messiah.

Humanity’s Longing for a Savior

Throughout the Old Testament, we witness a deep, persistent longing for a Savior, a theme that resonates starkly with the human condition described in Romans 3:9-20. This isn’t just about the Israelites yearning for deliverance from earthly struggles; it’s a profound reflection of the human heart’s desperate state. We find ourselves utterly lost, spiritually dead, shackled in sin, incapable of self-rescue. This cry for salvation is a cry for someone outside ourselves to break our bonds, to release us from the tyranny of our own failings.

The prophecies of the Old Testament are more than ancient hopes; they are the articulation of this deep-seated need for a Savior. They speak to our condition – enslaved to sin, condemned, and without hope in ourselves. It sets the stage for the greatest rescue story ever told: the coming of a Messiah who can truly save. This narrative is not just about the fulfillment of prophecies; it’s about answering the desperate cry of the human heart for salvation – a theme that spans thousands of years and continues to echo in our lives today.

The Anticipation of the Messiah

Throughout the Old Testament lie prophecies that formed a bedrock of hope and anticipation for the Messiah. These were not mere predictions; they were declarations of a future so distinct, so specific, that they formed the very backbone of hope for God’s people. Consider Isaiah 7:14, a prophecy that breaks all bounds of normalcy – a virgin birth. Or Micah 5:2, which pinpoints Bethlehem, an otherwise insignificant town, as the birthplace of a ruler whose origins are from eternity.

These prophecies set the stage for a Messiah who was far more than just a capable leader. They spoke of the Promised One, a figure unparalleled in history, power, and significance. Generations of Israelites grew up with these prophecies, instilling in them a deep-seated yearning and expectation. The Messiah’s coming was not just anticipated; it was the climax of a long, patient wait, a hope passed down through centuries.

Yet, as years turned into centuries, this anticipation was tinged with doubt and questions. Had they misunderstood the prophecies? Was their interpretation flawed? The wait seemed endless, and the silence from heaven deafening. They wondered if the Messiah had already come and gone unnoticed, or if the promise was yet to be fulfilled. This longing wasn’t just for deliverance; it was for the arrival of the Promised One who would redefine their understanding of God’s plan. The anticipation of the Messiah was a journey of faith, hope, and continuous longing.

Hope in the Midst of Darkness

We live in a world shadowed by uncertainty, where threats loom at every corner — wars tearing nations apart, diseases spreading fear, the unseen chains of human trafficking, and the ever-present shadow of terror. This is our reality, a world that often feels engulfed in unending darkness. It’s a scene all too familiar, echoing the turmoil of ancient times, where people lived under similar shadows, waiting, hoping for a deliverer.

In this darkness, our hearts cry out for more than temporary fixes. We long for a profound change, a complete overhaul of our broken world. It’s a deep yearning for light in our darkness, peace in our turmoil — a yearning that resonates with the ancient hope of Advent.

Advent brings this longing to the forefront. It’s not just a historical remembrance, but a current experience of waiting and hoping for a time when all that is wrong will be made right. It’s a season that stirs within us a profound longing for the glory that is yet to come — the fulfillment of a promise that began with a baby in a manger and culminates in a future where every tear is wiped away, and peace reigns supreme.

Fulfillment of an Age-Old Promise

As Advent stirs within us a profound longing for a time when all that is wrong will be made right, it propels us directly into the heart of a remarkable fulfillment: the birth of Christ. This pivotal event, foretold by the prophets, is not just a distant memory but a beacon of hope illuminating our present. The Old Testament prophets, in more than 300 prophecies, sketched the portrait of a coming Messiah, setting a foundation of anticipation that seemed almost too vast to be realized in a single person. Yet, the birth of Christ is exactly that – the astonishing intersection where ancient longing and divine promise converge.

Mathematician Peter Stoner’s analysis brings this into sharp focus. He calculated the odds of one person fulfilling just eight of these prophecies by chance. Consider the prophecy of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Among the numerous towns and cities, the likelihood of this specific prophecy being fulfilled in Bethlehem is astronomically low. Stoner estimated this probability at about 1 in 280,000. But Bethlehem was just the beginning.

Stoner examined seven more prophecies, including the Messiah’s betrayal and the piercing of His hands and feet. The cumulative probability of one person fulfilling all eight is about 1 in 10^17. To put this in perspective, winning a major lottery jackpot is around 1 in 10^8, making the odds of fulfilling these prophecies a billion times more improbable. And that’s just 8 of them. Jesus fulfilled all 300. 

This isn’t just about numbers; it’s about the realization that the incarnation of Jesus Christ is the extraordinary answer to humanity’s deepest longing. The birth of Christ isn’t just a historical event; it’s the pivotal point where prophecy, improbability, and hope converge. The incarnation stands as the ultimate response to humanity’s cry for salvation, transcending mere chance and firmly rooting itself in the realm of divine orchestration.

Applying the Hope of Advent to Our Lives

In the journey of Advent, we find ourselves living in a profound tension — between the “already” of Jesus’ first coming and the “not yet” of His anticipated return. This season isn’t just about looking back at a Savior born in Bethlehem; it’s also a forward-looking expectation for His second coming, a time when He will ultimately vanquish sin, death, and hell, restoring His creation and wiping away every tear.

This dual perspective of Advent challenges us to infuse our daily lives with the theme of hope. It calls us to live in the expectancy of God’s promises, drawing strength and inspiration from both the fulfillment of Christ’s first coming and the anticipation of His return. Our hope is not just a reflection on past events; it is an active, living hope that shapes our present and our future.

Just as the Old Testament prophets eagerly awaited the Messiah’s first arrival, we too look forward with certainty to Christ’s second coming. The parallels are striking. In the same way that the first coming was foretold by numerous prophecies, so too is His return prophesied, with many signs already unfolding. 

he Bible, particularly in books like Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Revelation, speaks of signs that would precede the end times — wars, natural disasters, famines, and widespread turmoil. These descriptions, given over two millennia ago, can often seem strikingly familiar as we look at the news today. We see conflicts across nations, hear of earthquakes and extreme weather events, and witness the struggles with global issues like pandemics and economic instability.

While it’s crucial to approach these events with discernment, they do resonate with the scriptural descriptions of the times leading up to Christ’s return. This resonance doesn’t mean we should see every headline as a direct fulfillment of a specific prophecy. However, these events serve as reminders — they alert us to the transient nature of our world and the ongoing relevance of biblical prophecy.

These reminders call us to a state of readiness. Jesus Himself spoke about the importance of being prepared, alert, and watchful (Matthew 25:1-13). In a world that often seems unpredictable and volatile, these current events nudge us towards a deeper engagement with our faith. They encourage us to examine our lives, to ensure that we are aligned with the teachings of the Gospel, and to live in a manner that reflects our anticipation of Christ’s return.

Living in this tension of “already” and “not yet” allows us to navigate our world with a hope that is both grounded in historical truth and dynamically engaged with the unfolding of God’s plan. As we reflect on these themes this Advent, let them not only be a source of contemplation but a catalyst for living lives filled with hope, purpose, and expectation in the here and now.

Carrying Hope Into the World

As we conclude our journey through the first week of Advent, let us carry the hope that has been kindled within us into our everyday lives. This hope, birthed from the fulfillment of ancient prophecies and the anticipation of Christ’s return, has the power to transform how we live. Let us be beacons of this hope, reflecting the light of Christ in our actions and interactions. In a world often shrouded in uncertainty and despair, the hope of Advent becomes a vital testament to the enduring faithfulness of God. Let it inspire us to live with purpose, to spread peace, and to be agents of change, embodying the love and hope that Jesus Christ exemplifies.

Sermon & Sandwiches

Discussing a sermon after hearing it can deepen understanding and facilitate spiritual growth, as it allows for personal reflection and shared insights. Engaging in conversations about the sermon can transform mere listening into active application in our lives. Here are some conversation starters:

  • Hope in Difficult Times: “How do you think the hope of Christ’s first and second coming can impact our perspective in current challenging situations?”
  • Prophetic Fulfillment: “Which Old Testament prophecy about Jesus stands out to you the most, and why do you find it significant?”
  • Living in ‘Already and Not Yet’: “In what ways do you feel we experience the tension between the ‘already’ of Jesus’ first coming and the ‘not yet’ of His return in our daily lives?”
  • Application of Hope: “How can we practically carry the hope of Advent into our everyday interactions and decisions?”
  • Reflection on Personal Growth: “How does reflecting on Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy challenge or change the way we live out our faith?”

The Daily Devotion

Day 1: Prepare the Way (Luke 1:16–17)

  • Scripture: “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:16)
  • Reflection: Consider how John the Baptist’s mission to prepare the way for Christ mirrors our Advent journey. Reflect on your own spiritual preparation and readiness.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for an open heart to embrace repentance and renewal, preparing the way for Christ in your life.

Day 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (Luke 1:46–55)

  • Scripture: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)
  • Reflection: Meditate on Mary’s response of hope and trust in God’s promises.
  • Prayer Focus: Ask God to help you trust in His plans and respond with joy, just as Mary did.

Day 3: The Long-Awaited Visitation (Luke 1:68–71)

  • Scripture: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:68)
  • Reflection: Reflect on God’s faithfulness and the fulfillment of His promises across generations.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for a deeper appreciation of God’s faithfulness and the fulfillment of His promises in your life.

Day 4: For God’s Little People (Luke 2:1–5)

  • Scripture: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.” (Luke 2:7)
  • Reflection: Reflect on the humility of Jesus’ birth and how God works through the humble.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for humility and an openness to see God’s work in unexpected places and ways.

Day 5: No Detour from Calvary (Luke 2:6–7)

  • Scripture: “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” (Luke 2:6)
  • Reflection: Contemplate the connection between Jesus’ birth and His sacrifice on the cross.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for a heart that finds hope in the midst of joy and sorrow, recognizing the salvation plan of God.

Day 6: Peace to Those with Whom God Is Pleased (Luke 2:12–14)

  • Scripture: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
  • Reflection: Reflect on the peace that Christ brings, which surpasses all understanding.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for the peace of Christ to fill your heart and to be a source of hope and reconciliation in your life.

Day 7: Messiah for the Magi (Matthew 2:1–2)

  • Scripture: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 2:1)
  • Reflection: Consider the global impact of Christ’s birth and the inclusive nature of God’s salvation.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for a heart that recognizes and rejoices in the universal reach of God’s salvation, extending hope to every corner of the earth.