“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him…But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Isaiah 64:4, 8 ESV
It’s a bit difficult cultivating hope at the end of the semester. It makes more sense to talk about hope in the beginning. But now, you’ve either turned in or are about to submit a final paper; the exam has come and gone or is just around the corner; and the list of all the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” is several pages long, right? The semester is basically over, but it’s still close enough that the regrets feel too real. This does not feel like a time to talk about hope.
One of the gifts of the Christian Calendar is that it questions and differs from the other calendars we often live by. UNF, JU, Flagler and FSCJ say this is finals season; but the Church says this is Advent. The academic calendar says it’s the end of the semester. The liturgical calendar says the spiritual year is just beginning. Our planners remind us of all the things we didn’t do the last 3 or so months; but the Hope Candle reminds of all that has been done for us and invites us to stir up our hope once again.
The Isaiah verses above (and verses 1-9 of that chapter) were written at what some in Israel thought was the end their story. They were just returning from exile, but their homeland was different and they knew things would never be the same. While the people could point the blame at any number of actors, they knew that it was Israel who had gone astray, and now they were living through the consequences of their sin. This is the moment that the prophet reminds them of the awesome things God has done in the past and the Holy One’s eagerness to do even greater things in the future. In their lowest moment, Isaiah essentially says ‘now is not the time for regret – now is the time for hope!’ And I believe God is saying the same thing to us as we conclude this first week of Advent.
My friends, we belong to Jesus and he will complete the work he started in us. We are his workmanship, his masterpiece – and he is able to take whatever happened this semester and create something beautiful out of it. So regardless of how finals worked out, there is a reason for hope. Whether you passed the class with flying colors or are thinking through when you’re gonna repeat it, the Advent season calls you to light the candle of hope.
May the hope of knowing we’re not alone in this season of life bring light to your world this weekend. God is with us!