December 1, 2019
When the angel spoke to Mary, I’m sure she was shocked. I mean, can you image that after hearing about the coming Messiah all your life (even though she was only 13 or 14) now the time had come and you were going to be the one to deliver Him to the world? How could she believe it? Why would she believe it? Because she had HOPE in the Word of God given long ago.
This first Sunday in advent our theme is HOPE, but on what do we base that hope? On what did Mary base her hope? To answer this we must look back, many, many years earlier to the writings of the Old Testament, the words of the prophets from long before Mary and her family. We need to see why God’s people still had hope. After all, they had been through a lot. Moving all over, exile and back, strong kings, weak kings, and now the Romans….what was the source of their hope? Let’s see if we can find it.
Even before Isaiah received and prophesized about the coming of the Messiah, there was hope.
Noah, obeyed God’s command to build a boat on dry land. He believed and had hope in the God who promised to save him and his family. Noah took God at his Word. God kept his promise. This gave Noah hope.
Abraham had been given a promise, one that seemed unreal, that he would have a son, but he believed in this God that spoke to him and promised to make his a great nation. He had reason to hope and in his old age, he had a son that carried on his name. Abraham took God at his Word. God kept his promise. Abraham had hope.
Jacob was told God would be with him and he would have many nations come from his seed. And he did. Joseph was shown in dreams that he would be great….he didn’t understand but later, saw the fruition of his dreams as God lead him to greatness in Egypt, that in the end, saved his family. He had hope.
Isaiah, now a prophet for God, speaking for God, not just being spoken to like these others, shared with God’s people the hope to come. In Isaiah 9 we hear the familiar passage about the child that would be born, that would bring the world peace. The promises of this passage, the Word of God, gave the people of God hope for a very, very long time. I don’t know how long, but I do know that from the end of the OT to the birth of Christ, it was at least 400 years. And Isaiah was well before that. Think of the generations that passed on the promises of God, spoken by Isaiah. They were waiting for the one who would be called the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Eternal Father. Can you imagine what they hoped for in a person whose names were that? And yet, it was a long time in coming.
Prophecy, God’s Word, gave the people of God HOPE. They waited and waited. Some then got to see the promise fulfilled. Simeon had been promised by the Lord that he would “see” the one who was to save Israel. He waited, day after day in the temple and finally, when he saw the infant Jesus, God revealed to him the promise kept. He had HOPE and lived to see it. He lived out his life in that HOPE.
The people of God lived through many, many difficult years until the time of the birth of Jesus. They didn’t have it easy but they had hope. So what does the fulfillment of the prophecies do for us? They give US Hope too.
When we see the fulfillment of the prophecies, the fulfillment of the promises, we see that we can trust God at His word.
In the book of Hebrews we see what HOPE is. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. “ We have faith because we have HOPE. We have hope because God is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promises is faithful.” We know that God will keep his promises because we have the benefit of the whole story. We can look back and see how God kept the promises He made to his people and know that he will keep his promise to us to come again.
Every year, when we celebrate Christmas, we remember how God kept his promise to send a Messiah. It wasn’t the way his people thought it would be. It certainly wasn’t what we might think was the best way but God knew it was. And so, we believe. Maybe we believe because we have the whole story. Maybe we believe because we know how it ends. But, what for us now? What do we hope for today, 2,019 years after Jesus was born in Bethlehem? We know what He did, we know the “end” of his story but it really wasn’t the end, it was just the beginning and that, my friends is our Hope.
Hebrews 6:17-19 says “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchanglessness of his purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has enters as a forerunner for us.”
So, for what do we hope for this Advent/Christmas season? Our hope, dear friends is not in the retail system of the world, not in Amazon delivering our hoped for gifts in time for Christmas Day; it is not in our friends or family gathering together. Our hope rests in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Bethlehem, the God of Calvary. Our hope is in Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Psalm 39:7 says “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.”
In the Bible, God’s holy word, we have our hope. In the Word, given to us as a gift from God, we can read the promises made and kept. In God’s word, we can be guided to find HOPE. And in that HOPE, we can find peace and rest. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” If we begin to read the Bible, if we begin to know God the way the people of old did, we will find the Hope that they held onto and we will have HOPE for this life and for the life to come, from HIS WORD. Eugene Peterson says “Because the core of all living is GOD, and GOD is a holy GOD, we require much teaching and long training for living in response to GOD as he is and not as we want him to be.”
So what do we do with this hope? Should we keep it to ourselves? Share it with each other just here at church? I hope not. We live in a world that is looking for HOPE, we need to live in our hope and share the source of our hope with those who live in a hopeless world. I encourage you this Christmas season, to find a way to share your hope with someone who has none. To reach out in the assurance of God’s grace to you, to give Hope to a world that doesn’t know Him. I believe that you will truly be blessed beyond measure if you do.
Remember, Faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things unseen. God, in Jesus, is our only Hope.