Since we have not been able to gather in a normal way due to the pandemic, we celebrated the season of advent with our life group on Sunday evening. As we were exploring the meaning of the five candles, I was struck by the relationship of three of the candles to the fruit of the Spirit. Our five candles represented hope, peace, joy, love, and Jesus Christ.
The hope candle and the Christ candle are not included in the fruit of the Spirit. Why is hope not included in the fruit of the Spirit? Hope for those in Christ is the presence of the Holy Spirit as a constant reminder that this physical life we live is not all there is. God desires us to experience an abundant life now and a glorious eternal life with Him in the future. I see hope as the fuel for producing all the other fruit of the Spirit. Hope is the sap in the fruit tree. Without hope a person shrivels and dies. Hope is the presence of the Holy Spirit who comes along side when all is hopeless.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession– to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV)
Everyone experiences suffering, but not everyone responds to suffering in the same way. Without Christ suffering often leads to a path that might look like this: hopelessness leads to fear, which leads to despair, which ultimately leads to hate. We are trapped in a painful situation and see no way out and the result is that we look for someone to blame. As Christians we have another option and can choose a different path: hope leads to peace, which leads to joy, which ultimately leads to love. Rather than looking for someone to blame, love looks for someone to help.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)
This is a quite different Christmas season. We get to choose the path we take as we encounter disappointment and loss. My prayer is that we will be people of hope searching out ways to share our hope through expressions of love, joy, and peace.