(Note: This message (and series) are adapted from "Simple Christmas" by 12 Stone Church in Alpharetta, GA)
Advent – Part 1
Hope – December 2, 2018
In our culture, there is a tendency to overdo Christmas.
- We over schedule our calendar,
- overextend ourselves financially,
- over-stressing about getting everything just right.
But if you think about it, our favorite Christmas memories usually are not about the parties or the extravagant things, but the simple things. Sometimes, when we overdo something, we have a tendency to overlook what really matters.
Our capacity to get the most out of
In this series, we’re going back to four simple things that Jesus gives us—hope, faith, joy, and peace. We’re going to do that not so much by talking about Christmas, but by talking about Advent.
In the traditional church calendar, Advent is not actually part of Christmas. It is the season before Christmas. One of its primary purposes is to prepare our hearts for Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus for twelve days starting December 25. (Does that help you understand the origin of the 12 Days of Christmas song?)
Today, we’re going to talk about hope. So, let me ask you a question, what do you hope for?
When I was a kid, I got to express my Christmas hope with the Sears Wish Book. Who remembers that? I’m sorry for those of you who are too young to remember it! I’m pretty sure that nearly everything under the tree at our house came from that book.
Let’s change direction. For this question, I want you to think bigger than Christmas. I want you to think about the big hopes. I don’t know everyone in this sanctuary, but I think I know this, we all hope for something. God has wired us for hope. Hope is what motivates us. It’s what pushes us forward. It’s what keeps us going.
There are two kinds of hope: (1) hoping for something and (2) hoping in someone.
- Things hoped for can be described as the hope that makes children wake up at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning
- Things hoped for can be also be described as the hope that makes adults wake up at 3 a.m. on Black Friday.
- There might be someone hoping to get engaged this Christmas.
- There might be someone hoping to a better job
- There might be someone hoping to get a house.
We all hope for something.
And sometimes our hopes are more serious.
- I hope that this depression lifts
- I hope it’s not cancer
If our ultimate hope is placed in anything on this Earth, then one day we will know disappointment and despair because the things of this world are not meant to fulfill us or last forever.
The real question is, what is our foundational hope? What is the hope that we fall back on? What is the hope we turn to when all our other hopes have been crushed? And that leads to the second kind of hope—hoping in someone.
Hoping in someone leads us to God himself—the God of hope. Paul uses this description in Romans 15:13, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
God is the God of hope and he has fashioned us with a craving for hope. And that craving for hope exists to lead us to him so that he might be our ultimate source of hope. I love C.S. Lewis’ line in Mere Christianity, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.” God has created us to hope because satisfaction of hope exists.
Hope is essential for life. People can endure the loss of many things, but they can’t endure the loss of hope. Throughout history, people have lost…
- and reputations
People have endured all kinds of loss, but they cannot survive the loss of hope. When we lose hope, we lose courage. When we lose hope, lose the will to continue. But the good news is that the God of hope meets us in our hopes.
Hope is essential for life. Proverbs 13:12 says hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Remember the movie Apollo 13?
- Krista and I saw it with friends in the theater. Her friend leaned over to her half way through the movie and asked Krista if she thought they’d make it back.
- Everything went wrong. They were coming back to earth and had one in a million shot to correctly enter the atmosphere.
- They’d be out of contact for at least three minutes.
- They made it.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Hope is what we experience when there is silence. Longing fulfilled is what happens when the party breaks out to celebrate that hope has arrived.
Thinking of that movie, I realize we’re all waiting for something. In the movie, they waited four agonizing minutes. Maybe your four minutes has turned into four years…or longer. We’re all waiting for something.
- Someone is waiting for a child to be born.
- Someone is waiting for a spouse.
- Someone is waiting for a prodigal child to come home.
- Someone is waiting for a marriage to be restored.
- Someone is waiting for freedom from an addiction.
- Someone is waiting for a job.
- Someone is waiting to be out of debt.
We’re all hoping for something. Author Lewis Smedes writes that, “Waiting is part of our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light, we wait in fear for a happy ending we cannot write, we wait for a not yet that feels like not ever.”
Waiting is the hardest word of Hope… and it is meant to drive us toward the ultimate hope—the God of hope.
As we read the Old Testament, we see that God seems to have constantly led his people through periods of waiting and hope.
- He told Abraham he’d have a son and be the father of a nation.
- God said that when he was 75.
- He waited and hoped for 25 years before that promise was fulfilled.
- God told Moses that he would lead the nation of Israel from slavery and bondage in Egypt to the promised land. They waited and hoped for 40 years before they got there.
The central message of the Old Testament is hope—the waiting and hoping for the Messiah. It’s what the prophets pointed to.
- Jeremiah said they’d have hope and a future
- Isaiah constantly reminded them to keep their hopes up that God would send someone they could put their hope in.
Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 7 (page 488). Isaiah wrote, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14). This was written 700 years before Christ’s birth.
Now, turn over to Isaiah 9. The prophet also wrote, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned,”(Isaiah 9:1-2).
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this, (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Isaiah told the nation of Israel to keep up hope because the Messiah was coming. He told them to keep looking
Let’s look at the New Testament now. Let’s look at John chapter 1 (page 750). (Have folks turn to John 1 in the pew Bibles, mark their place, and then have them turn to page 678).
That’s a page we don’t turn to often. It is a blank page. It represents something called the intertestamental period. Scholars call it the 400 silent years. That page that rush by in less than a second represents 400 years when God’s people were calling out to him and he wasn’t answering. (Kind of like, “Odyssey, this is Houston, do you read me?”).
Some of the leaders began to rethink their theology during that that time. Some of the rabbis started teaching that God no longer communicates with humanity, that he has given up. People thought that God was silent, and this is where we pick up and John 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without
Notice that Word is capitalized. John calls Jesus the Word. Jesus has been with God from the beginning. People thought that God was silent, but he had been speaking all along—since the beginning. Let’s read the next two verses: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (John 1:4-5).
John was echoing when Isaiah prophesied. A light would come…and Jesus is that light.
- He shines in the darkness.
- He triumphs over the darkness,
- He reverses injustice.
Jesus comes and gives light. Hope has arrived.
Look at John 1:14. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased the beginning of that verse in the Message, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood…” Jesus arrived and said put your hope in me and you won’t be disappointed.
Some people misunderstand it means to put our hope in Jesus. They think he’s going to give us everything we want. But what Jesus was saying was that when all the other hopes of this world disappoint you, He will be the hope that fulfills, He will be the hope that prevails. He will be the hope that holds you up and sustains you. That’s the promise Jesus gives. He calls us to himself and asks us to put our hope in him.
Our ultimate Christian hope is a future orientation built upon
- It is Christ-centered confidence that he died, rose again, and has given us victory over sin and death.
- Christian hope is assurance that our sins are forgiven and our future is assured.
- One day, every wrong will be made right, every tear will be dried, every injustice will be redeemed. That is Christian hope.
- And it is Christian hope that enables us to stand against anything that this world can throw at us.
We have that kind of hope. And it is essential for life that we possess it and that we keep it…we need to protect it.
Why would I say we need to protect hope? Because Eeyore’s exist. You remember Eeyore, right? He is the ultimate embodiment of pessimism. There are always people who can find the cloud in any silver lining. Eeyore drains hope. Jesus paints a picture of a better future; Eeyore contaminates the future. We need to fight for hope and protect hope.
How do we get hope? Paul said it’s a mystery—”Christ in you, the hope of glory” is the way he put it in his letter to the Colossians, (Col. 1:27).
Hope expresses itself in perseverance (personally) and encouragement (with others). Christ has placed hope in us, so we can express it to others. Hope enables us to encourage others.
- Sometimes we encourage with words,
- sometimes with service,
- sometimes with generosity.
- Christ in us knows what kind of encouragement other people need.
He is still the word. He still communicates. He wants to know if he can communicate through us, if he can give hope through us.
Hope also help us to hang on—to persevere. Hebrews 10:23 tells us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” It goes on to say, “We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer,” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Did you catch that? Our ultimate hope is that Jesus is coming back! The next time, it won’t be as a baby in a manger, but as the king breaking through the clouds. He will come to restore and take to himself those who have put their hope in him. And at that moment, it will be a longing fulfilled that is a tree of life. And we hope for that. Until that happens, we give the hope of Christ to the world.
In this series, we will explore the season of Advent and how it helps us anticipate and prepare for Jesus' return.