Summary: This is the first part of our Advent series where we look at the four themes of Advent

I can think of nothing sadder than a life lived without hope.

A hope that regardless of how bad things might seem, that things could get better. That ultimately every night has a dawn, every storm has an end, and every mountain has a peak.

Author and preacher Max Lucado writes, “We need hope. There's nothing worse than to live a life of despair. For a person to have no hope just sucks the blue out of every sky.”

Many people living in Israel 2000 years ago were living lives without hope. They felt that the glory days of their country were but a distance memory. They saw no future for themselves and no future for their children.

For many of those living in Israel, each day was simply another empty day of existence. They knew that they would live under the Roman occupation and they would die under the Roman occupation.

In his Gospel, Matthew reaches back to the prophet Isaiah and the scripture that was read for us earlier and writes of the people who sat in darkness. They were people who had given up any hope of seeing the light.

This is the first Sunday of Advent; and things are different this year. Wow, is that an understatement or what?

Christmas this year will be different from in the past for each one of us.

There will be no large gathering, and perhaps not even extended family gatherings. We won’t be travelling from province to province, and for the most part we will be encouraged to “Stay the blazes home.”

And at Cornerstone, Christmas this year will be different. There will be no pageant, or Bethlehem live, we won’t have families reading at the front, we won’t have candles burning that need to be blown out after the service. And although we aren’t sure what our Christmas Eve services will look like this year, we do know they will be very different from previous years.

And for the next two weeks, our services will only be online, then we will need to see what the future holds.

This Christmas we will be looking at the four themes of Advent: Hope, Joy, Faith, and Peace

And so, on this, the first Sunday of Advent, the Hope Candle is traditionally lit. And while it is called the hope candle, it could more correctly be called the Hope Restored Candle.

While it is true that the people of Israel had no hope, that wasn’t always true.

Let’s start with the fact that They Once Had Hope The story of the nation of Israel is a story of a hope that was offered. That offer goes clear back to the story of Abraham, which is where we started our last series.

Abraham and his wife Sarah were childless in a time and culture where children were seen as a blessing from God. And God stepped into their lives and promised them the impossible, a child.

Now I know that having a child isn’t impossible, sometimes even people who have assumed that they couldn’t have children, discover that they can actually conceive. They usually name that child “surprise”, if only in their minds.

But in the case of Sarah and Abraham, they were old, and had been married for years, and they had given up any hope of every having a child.

A friend of mine told me years ago that he and his wife just had to sneeze, and they got pregnant. I’m not sure that’s how it works, but apparently nothing worked for Sarah and Abraham, not even sneezing.

And into their world stepped God with a word of hope. They were not only promised a child, they were promised a nation.

We read that promise in Genesis 12:1–3 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

And over the next fifteen hundred years that hope was reinforced over and over. Time and time again the people of Israel were reminded of the hope that came with the promise.

We see it in the story of Joseph and the story of Moses. In the story of Joshua and the story of the Judges. In the story of King David and the story of his son Solomon.

And for the people of Israel, they looked back to those days as a reminder of the hope that they once had. That once they had dreamed of being a great nation, that once they were a great nation.

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