First Week of Advent – Hope
Mark 1:1-11 & Isaiah 40:1-5
My friend Marian was a giver of gifts.
The very first week we worked together, before I knew her at all, a strange item appeared on my desk. It was a framed 1957 stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Education Association. I had no clue where it had come from, and in the chaos that is the week before the start of school, I laid it to the side to deal with later. As the school year unfolded, I would periodically pick up the framed stamp wondering how it ended up on my desk. Months later, Marian came in my room to ask me a question and picked up the stamp. She asked me if I liked it and I realized she had given it to me. The stamp was the first of many gifts from her. Some of her gifts were practical – pens with green ink for grading, but most were a little unusual. Somewhere in my house is a flag with 48 stars. Over the years I received old books, a beautiful ginger jar, a silver biscuit holder, and many other sweet gifts. Several years before she retired, right before Christmas, she sent a Christmas cactus home with me. The Christmas cactus has survived all these years and is blooming right now in my office. My sweet friend has left me, but her love is still here with me. As we enter Advent, I am reminded of another Giver of gifts and the precious gift he gave. This gift is unlike any other. The Giver became the gift and entered the world as a tiny helpless baby. This baby, a gift of love, brings us joy and the certainty of hope. God has blessed me with the wonderful gifts of family, friends, a granddaughter, a church I love and a church family I feel grateful to share life with. He has given me the precious gift of hope during this season. The hope of a light shining in the darkness, the hope of redemption for all the world, and the hope of life everlasting.