Posted: December 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

I absolutely love the Christmas season.  I love picking out gifts for my family members and when I get something that I know someone will really like, part of me can’t wait for Christmas to get here so that I can see them open it.  I’ve been known to have a fitful night’s sleep on Christmas Eve … tossing and turning, sitting up to see what time it is and so on.  Needless to say, Betsy doesn’t usually get a good night’s sleep either, and there has been a time or 2 when I have been banished to the couch.  If you happen to be patrolling our neighborhood on Christmas morning, I can almost guarantee that our house will be the first one with lights on.  As excited as I get for Christmas to arrive, there is a part of me that wants to savor the moments, too.  That part of me wants the world to slow down so that we can find the time to sit together and watch all of our favorite Christmas movies.  It’s just not the same without Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid”, crying at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and watching “A Christmas Carol” … but only the black and white version with Alistair Sim will do.  The memories and laughter are treasures to be enjoyed to the fullest.

As a pastor, there’s nothing better than the Advent season.  The four weeks of Advent highlight hope, peace, joy and love – commodities that this world is starving for, things that each one of us is desperate for at some point in our lives.  What a privilege to be able to stand here and tell the story of Jesus Christ who is the one and only key to finding hope in our despair, peace in the midst of chaos, joy in the darkest times and love which is greater than anything this world can throw at us.  Today, on this first Sunday of Advent, we will explore hope.

In the dictionary, “hope” is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”  A Christian’s definition of hope is far superior to that of the dictionary.  Instead of wishing or hoping for something to happenhope, a believer knows that his or her hope is solid, concrete evidence because it is grounded in the Word of God.  The Christian has a hope that is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  It is a hope that cannot be moved by circumstances or what the eyes see because we trust in an unseen God and His faithfulness.

As Vice President, George Herbert Walker Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.  He was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope. She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the center of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, one best represented by Jesus who died on the cross.  And she hoped that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.

The Jewish hope for a Messiah can be traced back to God’s covenant with King David in 2 Samuel, chapter 7.   Hope arose that God would someday restore a godly king to Israel. Some of Israel’s prophets foretold the coming of a king from the line of David, and their descriptions seem to portray him as far more than a mere mortal. Isaiah foretold the coming of a “child” and “son” who “will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace,” and whose kingdom will never end (Is 9:6-7). Again Isaiah prophesied the coming of a Branch of David, on whom the Spirit of God will rest, who will rule the earth with justice and equity (Is 11:1-5).  The Jews waited a long time for the arrival of the Messiah, and their experiences colored their hopes of what this Savior could do for them.  By the time of Jesus, the Israelites had been exiled, enslaved and their nation had been occupied so much that all they wanted from a Savior was to get rid of Rome.  Their dreams were so small.  If only they recognized exactly who Jesus was.

We go through seasons in our lives.  Sometimes these seasons are difficult ones filled with illness, uncertainty, pain and loss.  At the end of these difficult seasons, we can sit and assess our situation.  We can look at our finances and calculate how much less we will have with unemployment, rather than a paycheck.  We can read the medical reports.  We can see the empty chair at our dining room table.  At the end of these seasons, we can evaluate the harvest … all of the aftereffects that we can see and touch and measure.  If our crop was apples, we can weigh our harvest, we can tabulate and we can count.  We can even count the number of seeds in each apple.  One thing we are not able to do is count the number of apples in the seed.

We think of the harvest as the end.  It’s a done deal.  It’s over.  What we see is all we have.  But we cannot forget the seeds.  Within the finality of harvest are the seeds of hope.  Our Savior is coming.  What is it that you hope for?

  • I hope that I get what I want for Christmas
  • I hope that the kids can come home this year.
  • I hope I can afford some better gifts.
  • I hope I can remember all my grandchildren’s sizes.
  • I hope there’s no homework over Christmas break.
  • I hope they sing Silent Night at the Christmas Eve service.

Remember … the Bible tells us that hope is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  So let’s dream big.

  • I hope that we can help the people out there see how real God is.
  • I hope that you have prepared room in your heart for Jesus.
  • I hope that illnesses are cured, that relationships are strengthened, that families are mended, that pain, loneliness and discouragement are slowly, surely replaced by joy and comfort.

Jesus is coming.  There’s nothing He cannot do, if you just let Him in.  Amen


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