What is hope? Modern culture tells us it is a “maybe,” a kind of unsure optimism. But in Scripture, hope is an indication of certainty. “Hope” means “a strong and confident expectation.” The Israelites were hoping for a savior, their messiah. God had promised a messiah and they believed it. They didn’t know when or who, but they were waiting.
Zechariah was a Levite in the nation of Israel. He worked in the temple and was a God-fearing man. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were childless in a culture where children were considered to be a sign of God’s blessing. Zechariah had prayed and prayed to God, asking for a child, but God had not sent one. As Zechariah stood in the Holy of Holies that day, preparing to offer the sacrifices for the people, an angel appeared to him with a message from God:
Fear not, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John. He will be a joy and delight to you and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord his God. He is never to take wine or fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go before the Lord to make ready a people.
But when Zechariah heard Gabriel’s words, his first reaction was not hope. It was doubt. He asked the angel, “But how can this be? I am an old man!” The angel responded I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
Elizabeth did become pregnant, and Zechariah found himself wholeheartedly living in hope, in confident expectation that God would give him a son and that the long-awaited Messiah was soon to follow. Today we too can live with Zechariah’s hope. We can live with the certainty and the confident expectation that Christ not only came to this world as a baby so long ago, but he will return and everything that God has promised will come true. What hope!
The lighting of
The Prophecy Candle
the candle of hope
Read Romans 15:12-13
As we begin the Christmas season, let’s review the Old Testament prophecies that foretold the coming of a Savior. In Matthew 1:22-23, the gospel writer said,
“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
Matthew was quoting a specific prophecy from Isaiah that was made more than 700 years earlier. In Isaiah 7:14, God spoke through His prophet and said:
“Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Mary did conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, and she did bear a Son whom she named Immanuel. This one event should assure us that whatever God has said He will do, as the Great “I AM”, He has the power to do, even if that means a virgin girl would need to conceive and give birth to a Son.
Prophecy is not the “foretelling” of the future, but rather it is the “forth-telling” of what God has already ordained to be.
As we light the prophecy candle, may we allow the flame to enlighten our understanding of God’s Word regarding the prophecies that have already been fulfilled, and warm our hearts regarding the prophecies yet to be fulfilled, including the imminent return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Like God’s people before the first coming of Christ, we now look ahead to the time when Christ, our Lamb and our Shepherd, will finish his work of redemption, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
A Prayer of Hope
“Dear God, as we light this candle, we hope for your coming as our Good Shepherd. Please gather us in your arms, feed us with spiritual food, wipe away every tear from our eyes, and let your face shine, that we may be saved. Come, our Shepherd! Amen.”