Today is the Advent Sunday of Hope. In the church, this marks the beginning of the season of advent – the period of waiting expectantly that precedes Christmas – as well as the start of a new liturgical year. In my life, it means that I am entering a season of blogging more regularly than is normal for me. I treat my blog as my own personal Advent Calendar during these weeks leading up to Christmas.

So, there is no doubt – today marks a beginning. And I think that hope is a very good place to begin. Long before the baby was born in Bethlehem, the people of God hoped for a Messiah. They had many ideas about what the Messiah would be like – most of which got turned in their heads when Mary gave birth to Jesus (Jesus is really good at turning people’s expectations upside down and inside out!). The prophets wrote about a Messiah they would not meet in their lifetimes. And yet in their words Jesus is absolutely recognizable. The words of the prophets are drenched in hope – the hope of comfort and joy, the hope that sin could be forgiven, the hope that the rocky places of life could be smoothed out.

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 40:1-5 NIV

These are the same hopes that are needed in our world today. Life is rocky, the way may seem dark, our sin and shame may overwhelm us, we may lack comfort and joy. But In Jesus God reaches out to us, to make our rocky paths smooth, to light our way, to forgive our sin, to bring us comfort, to usher in joy.

As we begin this season, may you know hope in Christ and may it bring you comfort and joy.