Yesterday there were two candles to light…the first candle of Hanukkah and the first Advent candle, the candle of hope.
In some ways these two might not seem to have anything in common. And we might wonder what they have to do with hope.
The typical definition of hope is kind of shallow. We might say “I hope it doesn’t rain” or “I hope I can see that movie”…or “I hope…[something else].” That’s short-term or wishful thinking and doesn’t require much of anything from us.
But there are some other ways of defining hope that are more meaningful in this season of advent.
Hope can be seen as an optimistic state of mind based on expecting positive outcomes regardless of what is going on in the world around. It can mean to expect with confidence or to cherish an idea with anticipation.
In the Christian tradition, it can be seen as faith directed toward the future. It is “the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
Hanukkah reminds us of hope in a God who knows our needs and provides what is needed–in this case, eight days of oil which allowed the Jews to rededicate the Temple that had been desecrated under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes. There was only one day’s worth of oil available to light the candelabra and begin the process of rededication–but it burned for eight days.
Advent points Christians toward the celebration of the presence of God in the world through Jesus…a celebration of the time he came 2000 years ago but also a looking forward to his coming again.
Both of these things seem impossible–and yet they happened.
And because they happened, we can acknowledge hope as more than just wishing that something will turn out well. We celebrate hope as a faith that looks toward the future with confidence…that God is, and that God continues to care for all of God’s creation.