Advent is an ancient celebration designed to help prepare the heart for the anniversary of Jesus’ birth. German worshippers introduced the advent wreath in the 16th century. Each of the four candles on the Advent wreath symbolizes a special meaning. The first candle is the candle of hope while the other three symbolize love, joy and peace. Therefore, our focus will be on the biblical meaning of hope. As Christians, we have every reason to be hopeful about our future, despite COVID, doomed businesses and anything else the world might throw our way.
If you take the Old Testament back to Hebrew, then you find four different words for hope. One is “yakhal.” Noah showed this type of hope as he waited for the floodwaters to recede after it stopped raining. At its most basic level, “yakhai:” means to remain in eager anticipation.
The very first advent wreath may have been invented by a German school administrator who was tired of answering the question, “How long is it to Christmas?” He took a large wheel from a cart and drilled 30 holes in it. Then, he put a candle in each hole. Four of the candles were a different color than the rest to symbolize Sundays. Each day, he held a ceremony to light the candles, with a new candle being lit each day. The children had a concrete answer that was easy to understand about how long they had to eagerly wait until Christmas.
We do not have a concrete answer on how long we must wait for Christ to come to take us home, but those who answer the call to be part of Christ’s family must have that same spirit of eager anticipation while waiting.
Stand Firm in Eager Anticipation
“Yakhal” is always used as a verb, and you can translate its meaning to stand firm in eager anticipation. The New Testament repeats this same theme many times, including:
- Ephesian 6:11 – Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
- 1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
- Philippians 4:1- Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
Tied to God With an Unbreakable Cord
The second Hebrew word for hope in the Old Testament is “qavah.” While the meaning is very similar, in “yakhal,” this word means that in this life, we are tied to God with an unbreakable chord as soon as we become his child. Picture a rappeler going up the side of a steep mountain on a safety rope. The rappeler’s faith must be entirely in the belayer. Just like the rappeler, the Christian must trust entirely in God.
When Micah proclaims in Micah 5, Jesus would be the one to bring peace and salvation to the world who had long hoped for an earthly savior. This same idea is repeated numerous times in the New Testament, including when John the Baptist asks Jesus if he is the one that he has been “qavahing” for. Jesus answers that he is by quoting Isaiah 61:1 when he says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”
As Christians worldwide light the first advent candle, they are eagerly waiting for the second coming of Christ. It is joyful anticipation because Christians know that the chord tying them to their eternal home cannot be broken. In the meantime, they must wait with hope for that day.
Many optimists in the world are not Christians. They have a baseless hope that things will be better sometime in the future. Since God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, Christians can stand on God’s promises that he can do now and in the future what he has done in the past. Read Revelations and get excited because God wins the struggle in the long term, and the chord always remains unbroken.
As you look at the hope candle, this Advent season reflect on all the reasons that you can be hopeful, even if man tries to report differently. Your faith ties you to the one and only victorious God with a chord that no one can break. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you stand firm with an unshakable hope for what tomorrow brings.
Dear God, we thank you for the gift of Jesus, who was born in a manger and died on the cross and rose again so that we could have eternal hope. Thank you for helping us understand that your love for us is so incredibly strong that you formed an unbreakable chord between you and us. Thank you for the gift of hope that surpasses all understanding. Please help us to stand steadfast in eager hope for things that are to come. Amen