By Lisa Huddleston

 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you. For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the Lord will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you” (Isaiah 60:1-2).

Christmas is coming. Can you feel it? I know, I know. Thanksgiving was only one week ago. The stores have been decorated since October. You’ve received enough catalogs to obliterate a large rain forest. Every charity you’ve ever helped has called or will soon. You have baking to do, parties to host and attend, and a list of gifts to buy that seems nearly impossible to conquer. Yes. I’m sure you would say you’re feeling it by now. Christmas is definitely coming.

But that’s not the feeling I mean. I can’t really put my finger on it—I’m usually a Scrooge myself by this time—but for some strange reason, this year feels different. Maybe it’s because my husband and I took the kids to the mall to buy their own gifts or maybe it’s that I’m getting less persnickety in my “more mature” years (probably not), but this year is definitely different. Fresher? More real? Yes and no—it’s the same story after all. God sent and is sending light into the darkness. He shone and is shining over us. His glory appeared and is appearing over us. The same story. The same bright star. The same angels and shepherds. But unexplainably, a new Hope is here. Like our newly purchased, ultra bright, LED lights, Jesus has come and has pierced through the darkness of the peoples—and through the cynical shell of my hardened heart. Yes, something is different this time around. Can you feel it, too?

This Sunday begins the Advent season—the traditional time of devotion that many believers celebrate by lighting five symbolic candles set in an evergreen wreath, one candle each Sunday prior to Christmas and the fifth on Christmas Eve. The first of these candles represents Hope. Jesus—the Light of the world that shines in the darkness and is not overcome. He is the hope of our calling, the hope of glory, a living hope, the reason for the hope that is in us as believers and the reality of all that is hoped for. Jesus came. Jesus is here. And Jesus is coming again. Can you feel it? Does this truth make a difference in your life and in this time of year? Oh yes, Lord. I know it should—and for some reason, this year I feel, I mean I really believe, that it does. You, Jesus, are my Hope!

Is it my heart that has changed? If so, I know that I have had little to do with it. Cynical as ever. Still a skeptic. The “Bah Humbug” of the house. I am not the reason for the change. But as this first candle reminds us, my hope is not in me. Jesus is the one who changes us. Like my salvation, my sanctification does not depend upon me. Despite myself, I am being transformed into His image. It is not my work but His. He is the faithful one, and my hope lies in Him alone. He has been at work in me since last December to bring Himself glory and to bring me joy. A little more Tiny Tim and a little less Scrooge. God bless us, every one!

Yes. Christmas is coming—in my house, in my church, in my neighborhood, and a little more truly this year than last, in my heart. His light has come and is coming again, and I can see Him with new eyes. Jesus Christ is the radiant Hope of all who are called by Him. No longer conformed to this world, but transformed and renewed. “Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will tremble and rejoice …” (Isaiah 60:5). Can you feel it? Oh, I hope you can.

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