The lessons focus on significant words of the season. They are arranged: 1. Hope, 2. Peace, 3. Joy, and 4. Love. However, feel free to arrange them according to the Advent practices of your congregation.
Imbed the video and photo of the Sankofa bird into your video conferencing software. Watch this video to learn how to share video on your Zoom call. Create a screen with the text for Isaiah 40:1-5, 27-31.
Welcome all guests. Conduct a brief time for introductions of participants.
Briefly introduce the scope of the study and The Bible Project. Speak about expectations regarding group dynamics, such as encouraging questions and comments. What video conferencing protocols do you need to agree on?
Offer an opening prayer.
Prompt discussion: When you hear the word “hope,” what comes to your mind? What feelings or memories are evoked?
Introduce the video: In the Bible, people who have hope are very different from optimists! In this video, we’ll explore how biblical hope looks to God’s character alone as a basis for trusting that the future will be better than the present.
Watch the video.
Following the video, note key ideas such as two Hebrew words for “hope” (“to wait for” and “tension in waiting”); waiting for God, whose past steadfastness leads to trust; optimism is different from hope; Greek word, elpis, a living hope in which we and all creation are reborn.
Invite participants to offer comments and observations on what they saw and drew. Discuss: How are hoping and waiting like hearing thunder in the distance? What is difficult about waiting for someone or something? What tensions have you experienced in waiting?
Introduce Isaiah 40:1-5, 27-31. The covenant people are in exile in a foreign land, a condition the prophets said had resulted from their disobedience to God. Now, the prophet announces the people’s rescue because of God’s steadfast love and trustworthiness.
Display the screen with Isaiah 40:1-5, 27-31 and ask volunteers to read aloud.
Discuss: What does it mean to wait for God? How does knowing what God has done in the past give us hope for tomorrow? What is it about God’s character that evokes trust in the human heart?
Display the photo of the Sankofa bird from West Africa: The symbol is based on a mythical bird with its feet firmly planted forward with its head turned backwards.
Say: People of faith can learn from the Sankofa the truth that to move forward into God’s future, it’s crucial to know the past and what God has already done. God’s character is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So we can hope that the God who liberated a people from slavery in Egypt and exile in Babylon and who raised Jesus from the dead will one day liberate creation from sin and death and raise all of us to new life.
1. Identify people who have nurtured their hope in God. Honor these harbingers of hope by creating and sending Advent/Christmas videos or making a contribution to an organization in their names.
2. Invite the participants to talk about their attitudes about the future, in light of current tensions and conflicts in the world. Listen to “I Shall Be Released” by Bob Dylan (or various other artists. Check out Nina Simone’s version!). Connect the song’s lyrics of longing and waiting with prison and social justice. Wonder together what makes Dylan’s song a fitting Advent song for our times.
3. Invite the participants to share the story of an experience when the strength of hope in God’s future pulled them through a difficult time.
O God, you tell us to hope in your faithfulness, yet when we look at the world, all we see is sin and sadness. Strengthen our resolve to be for the world witnesses to our living hope, Jesus Christ, your son, our savior, In whose name we pray. Amen.