Ending the Year and Looking Forward with Hope

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.

Ephesians 1:18

Today is the last day of the year. No, this reflection was not written for December 31. And, no, I have not fallen on my head recently. I know today isn't the last day of the secular calendar year. But it is the last day of the Christian Year, sometimes called the Church Year or Liturgical Year. This year, which gives order and meaning to the worship and prayers of millions of Christians throughout the world, ends today. Tomorrow is the first day of the new year, the first day of Advent. (If the whole notion of the sacred year is unfamiliar to you, you might like to check out an article I've written called: Introduction to the Christian Year.)

Beginning tomorrow and extending to Christmas Eve, the Daily Reflections will focus on Advent themes. Many of the reflections in the next 25 days will be mine. Others will be written by trusted colleagues and friends. Some of these reflections will address the Advent idea specifically. Others will be more muted, though always engaging Advent yearning, hope, or vision.

Today, I want to circle back to a verse from Ephesians upon which we reflected a year ago. It reads: "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people" (1:18). Here, Paul prays that the readers of his letter might "know the hope" to which God has called them. The word "hope," when used in Scripture, does not mean "wishful thinking." Hope is not pretending as if something will be the case when reason tells us otherwise. Rather, biblical hope is more like confidence, a sense of quiet certainty about how things will be.

Did you know you were called to hope? God has called you out of hopelessness into hope, into confidence that God has the future well in hand. You have been called to live with assurance that God is working all things out according to his will, that one day he will unite all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10). In that day, God will claim you as part of his glorious inheritance. You will belong fully to him, along with all of God's people, and God will rejoice over you.

Advent is a season of hope. In Advent, we remember the promises God once made to his people, promises that were fulfilled in the first advent (which means "coming") of Jesus Christ. In this season, we also remember the promises God has made to us, promises that remain to be fulfilled, promises that will come to pass in the second advent of Christ.

Thus, as we end the year and begin a new year together, may I invite you to join me in our celebration of Advent. May God renew in us a genuine hope, so that we may live out our calling as his people.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you hear the phrase "Christian hope," what comes to mind? What do you think? How do you feel? Do you need more hope in your life? Are you ready to begin the new Christian Year with Advent, a season of waiting with hope?

PRAYER: Gracious God, on this last day of the year, as we look ahead to Advent, may the eyes of our hearts be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us, the riches of your glorious inheritance in your holy people. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.