A Thrill of Hope

A Thrill of Hope

Advent week one

“The whole world trembles with hope…”

Cantique de Noel

Can you feel it in the air? It’s momentum as the anticipation of the holiday season builds and people begin to make plans. Decorations go up, calendars fill and some, like me, pray for snow. Many of us have waited all year for the season that makes hope contagious.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the beginning of Advent kicking off a week long reflection on hope. Today is the first day of Advent and this evening I’ll be lighting the candle of hope. And lately, I have needed to hold on to a whole lot of hope and a decent amount of coffee.

It feels like the perfect time to hope like crazy. You know why? Because right now people around the world are celebrating Advent by lighting the first candle. And when I think about that, my heart wants to explode with hope at the magnitude of hundreds of thousands of candles interrupting darkness. We need hope to keep burning. I need hope to keep burning.

“Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.”

1 Chronicles 29:15

I recently learned about the incredible true story of the famous and loved Christmas hymn, O Holy Night.

In 1847 in France, a young poet, Placide Cappeau, who rarely attended church, was asked by a local priest to write a Christmas poem. While on a long journey to Paris, Cappeau penned words about the birth of Jesus . He contemplated the story of the nativity and as he poured over his words, he felt inspired and hopeful. His inspiration lead him to collaborate with a famous composer, Adolphe Charles Adams, to put music to the words. Adams, who was Jewish and did not celebrate the birth of Jesus, agreed to put notes to his friend’s words. Three weeks later in a small French town, Cantique Noel was sung at midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

While the song grew in popularity with the church and towns people, its popularity would be short lived with the church. When discovered that Cappeau left the church and Adams did not believe in the birth of Jesus, the church felt they could no longer endorse Cantique Noel. And even though the church stopped singing it, the town people continued. The song continued in popularity and spread from town to town. Eventually the church in France would pick it back up and make it a part of their Christmas tradition.

A decade later John Sullivan Dwight, a writer and passionate abolitionist, had the words of Cantique Noel translated to English. Dwight was eager to introduce the lyrics to Americans and was especially partial to the third verse “Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease.” This verse supported his passion to fight against slavery. His efforts paid off and America quickly grew to love the song.

In 1906, with composer Adams no longer alive and Cappeau and Dwight in the latter stages of life, Reginald Fessenden, a universtiy professor and former chemist for Thomas Edison, did the impossible on Christmas Eve. With the help of a microphone and a generator, Fessenden, quoted verses of the birth of Jesus from the gospel of Luke. Ship radio operators and newspaper decoders sat stunned and mesmerized that a human voice was breaking through the air waves for the first time ever. As Fessenden finished quoting Luke, he picked up his violin and played, O Holy Night. I am sure it seemed like a Christmas miracle to the few that had access to a radio as it was not a common household item at this time.

O Holy Night became known as the very first song to ever be played on raido air waves. This historical song had its own journey of hope as people in different stages of their faith pioneered its introduction into the hearts and homes of people everywhere at Christmas.

I have been so touched to learn the powerful story behind a song I already loved. From now on, every Christmas, I will think about this song a little deeper and the people who fought to keep it alive. I think the story of this song is the perfect example of keeping hope alive in the midst of insurmountable odds or maybe our own questions of faith, doubt, disappointment, or pain. After all, hope isn’t a wish or a feeling-it’s the foundation of our faith in Jesus and the story of a baby boy who changed the course of history. And still today, His story continues to change the history of people’s lives all over the world.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Chorus
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;

Chorus
He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! your King! before him bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!

Chorus
Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!

This week as I light the candle of hope each night, these following verses will be part of my reflection. I am excited for you to join me and to hear of your reflections as we journey together this Advent season!

Verses for this week:

Sunday- 1 Chronicles 29:16

Monday- Romans 8:24-25

Tuesday- Romans 5:5

Wednesday- Romans 15:13

Thursday- Colossians 3:2

Friday- Psalms 147:11

Saturday- Isaiah 40:31

Image Via Unsplash

Rice, Beans and Miracles Unseen

Rice, Beans and Miracles Unseen

I believe that miracles happen everyday but so often we don’t see them. A set back or an obstacle can occur and we become focused on a solution or the lack of one.
What if the only solution you had to a problem was a miracle?

Many years ago, I had the privilege of helping a friend who had started a feeding program and day center in a small town of Nicaragua. Our location at the time was a small place with limited space and one tiny bathroom. The roof was completely made of metal and the average temperature was 90 degrees. One particular week, the power and water had been turned off in the whole city and it was on day three of no power and water that we had the weekly scheduled feeding program.

We only had twenty kids signed up to eat that day. It had been a long, exhausting week and our small team of four had been spread pretty thin. Two hours before the children were to arrive, I sent the team off to grab lunch and run some errands, while I stayed behind with the cook to help feed the kids.

The time came and children began to arrive and with all twenty accounted for, I began to hand out plates of rice and beans. I was so relieved that due to the lack of resources we had exactly enough to feed everyone. As the kids were lining up with their plates, there was a knock on the door. I opened the door to find ten more kids piling into the tiny center. Not even five minutes later another knock and even more hungry faces entered. Before I knew it, more knocks came and we had four times our  original number of children to feed. It was chaos. I came into the kitchen to let the cook know about the new arrivals and was met with absolute panic as she informed me that we did not have near enough to feed them all.

I looked at all the kids staring up at me expectantly. I couldn’t call anyone because phone lines were down. I didn’t have any cash on me to buy anything. I was out of options. I turned back to the cook and asked to see the pot of beans and rice. There it stood with the evidence of what she had said, we barely had enough.

I remembered the stories I had heard of people praying over food and God miraculously providing. So I prayed, “Okay God, we have to feed these kids. I pray that you provide food for every child here and increase our supply.” I waited, nothing happened. I am not sure what I was expecting, maybe the rice and beans to miraculously rise right before my eyes and come spilling out of the big, black pot. I had prayed in my heart language (English) instead of Spanish, so the cook looked at me with such confusion. To this woman, I appeared crazy kneeling down, talking to a pot of food on the ground. Crazy or not, I believed that God would help us feed every person there. I was desperate for Him to provide.  I turned to the cook and said, “Give an equal portion to every child and we will believe that all will eat today.”

We scooped out plate, after plate, after plate. Every single child that came that day ate not once, but twice. It was the craziest thing. The rice and beans were still the amount we started with and never changed in quantity even after every child ate twice! I couldn’t believe it and neither could the cook. We sent home leftovers for all of the children and we still had some in the pot.

That night I marveled at the miracle I had seen God bring to our humble, black pot of rice and beans. I knew the provision didn’t just come because of a need but because  of the love of God. He knew that it might be the only meal some children would receive that day. It always broke my heart on the weeks we had no leftovers to send home to those particular families. However, that day was different, that day we had more than enough for leftovers.

I pictured God’s absolute delight in loving on those kids and watching my shocked face every time I peered into the pot to see the quantity never seem to decrease.

While I have never seen beans and rice multiply quite like that again, I have never doubted that it could happen. When bills come rolling in, supplies are low, the van has a mechanical issue, or the washing machine has broken down, I remember that miracles happen.