ADVENT SERIES #1: Hope
1 December 2019
INTRODUCTION: So What is ‘Advent’?
Today we start a 4 part Advent sermon series and we will look at Peace, Joy, Love and Jesus up to Christmas day. It’s the first day of Advent and I’m so excited – I get to eat my first chocolate from my Advent calendar.
Historically Christians spent this time preparing themselves (prayer and fasting) for Christmas and remembering the birth of Jesus and their hope that He will come again. Modern day Christmas preparation seems to be all about preparing food, the tree, the lights, the decorations, getting gifts, route plans, car services, oh did I say food?
This Advent season perhaps we could choose to prepare ourselves and our families so that on the 25th December we know WHO and WHY we celebrate.
BTW – I know there are some people who cry foul (not turkey!) about Christians celebrating Christmas as it started as a pagan celebration. Here’s my personal take on this: I will use any opportunity, in any venue to worship, praise, give thanks and adore the God who gave everything for me. I acknowledge that everything belongs to Him, even ex-pagan holidays!
THE PROMISE OF A SAVIOUR BRINGS HOPE
Israel had been invaded, defeated and enslaved by an invading (Assyrian) army and people were suffering; they were a nation who had lost hope and had no vision for the future. Isaiah spoke out the promise of a Saviour for all the people, who will establish a government and promote peace.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)
“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
This did not immediately change Israel’s circumstances, people were still suffering, but they lifted their heads and believed the promise of God. They changed their focus from their problems to what they expected God to do and began to thank and worship Him. They had been reminded that despite what they were experiencing, God was in control and His plan was the BEST for them!
Hope is not trying to convince ourselves that life is perfect when our daily experience tells that it is not! Hope is not even convincing our self that tomorrow the problems will disappear so all I have to do is get through today!
Hope means to ‘expect what we want to happen with confidence’; also called trust. The Bible has many verses on hope. Let’s look at some:
1. Hope brings security
Job 11:18 (NIV) You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
Security is important to us so we have alarms in our cars and our houses; bars on our windows and doors, high walls, electric fencing, big dogs, armed security guards, access control into our suburbs; in fact anything to make us feel more secure and protected from the attacks of wicked people.
Having hope (in Jesus as Saviour and Lord) reassures us that our future with God is secure and protected as we trust in Him. However as good stewards, we are still required to act responsibly concerning our day to day security.
2. Hope gives us confidence
Psalm 25:3 (NIV) No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV) Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
When our hope for salvation is in what God has done for us, we never have to be ashamed of our past and are free to come boldly to God through prayer.
3. Hope enables us to praise God
Psalm 71:14 (NIV) But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
In the darkest hours and the deepest pain, Christians can still have hope in their future. Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour know that they will spend all of time in God’s presence, in a mansion set aside for them.
John 14:1-3 (NLT) “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am.
Remember Paul who was in prison on trumped up charges chose to sing praises instead of holding a pity party. He knew who was in control of his life. (See Acts 16:16 ff)
4. Hope gives us strength
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV) Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The demands, pressure and stress of this life can beat us down spiritually, emotionally and physically. When we place our trust, our hope in Christ to overcome evil with good, to bless and not curse and to draw on His word gives us renewed energy to face the world.
5. Hope grows our faith
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
We trust God for an abundant life in Him; a future filled with seeing His promises to us coming true so we live the promises out daily. We choose to ask that God’s Kingdom comes here on earth, instead of only seeing defeat in our life.
WHERE IS YOUR HOPE?
Ecclesiastes 9:4 (NLT) 4 There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”
Quick – check for a pulse! Yes? Only the living can hope that God’s promises will come true and our life will improve.
Romans 8:24-25 (NIV) 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Another translation uses pregnancy to illustrate hope; a mother to be waits expectantly, growing larger as their child grows in her, with joyful expectation for the wonderful event to come, the birth and blessing of their child! The expecting parents do not focus on the suffering the few hours of childbirth brings (so women can deal with man-flu), instead their thoughts are on the joy, the excitement and the blessings of a lifetime with their child.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Hope helps us to look to the future with God instead of allowing problems in our life to distract us so we take our eyes off Jesus and His promises to us! Instead of being misled by the devil and getting caught in a web of hopelessness let’s choose to trust in God’s plans and abilities. (They’re the best, after all!)
Jesus is our ‘better hope.’
Hebrews 7:19 (NLT) For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
This is the true meaning of preparing for Christmas; that it is about Jesus who was born on this earth so that you and I can have a future and a better hope. A hope trusting in God’s abilities to fulfil His promises and realising that on our own we cannot change our circumstances.
Jesus has already completely paid the price so that we can have a fulfilling, loving, living relationship with God. We can do nothing to either add or subtract from what Jesus has done. The enormity of God’s love in doing this for us whilst we still sinners, makes our current struggles, though very real, very small in comparison.
Jesus is our ‘living hope’:
1 Peter 1:3-5 (NRSV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
For a Christian who acknowledges that Jesus is Lord and Saviour of their life, whatever happens in our life here on earth is temporary and we are encouraged to see our future in God’s presence for all eternity.
Look at these promises in this verse:
• Jesus’ resurrection gives us living hope (will not wither) so that
• we know we have an inheritance waiting for us, one that will not rot, nor fade nor lose its glory.
• An inheritance safely kept in heaven for us,
• Who are being protected by the power of God…
So we fix our eyes on our future with God, looking past our present struggles and we have a better, living hope as we set our thinking on our life to come in heaven!
Colossians 3:1-2 (NRSV) 1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Everyone needs Hope! Last week Tony said “Life without hope is unbearable!” We have the opportunity this Christmas season to share the hope we have, a better hope; a living hope for a future with God.
Hope looks for God — everywhere…
Our preparation for Christmas can include seeing people who need the encouragement of God’s love and the gift of restored relationship with Him now offered to everyone. How willing are we to participate with God and show His grace and kindness to those desperately needing hope in their life? Will we keep this gift of a future filled with hope, peace, joy and love to ourself or give it away?
Everyone needs hope!
(Coming next week – Joy!)