Summary: This is the second sermon in a series that examines some of the overlooked gifts that God gave us that first Christmas. This message looks at the gift of hope.
Charles Schultz highlighted the importance of hope in one of his “Peanuts” comic strips. Lucy and Linus were sitting in front of the television set when Lucy said to Linus, "Go get me a glass of water." Linus looked surprised, "Why should I do anything for you? You never do anything for me." "On your 75th birthday," Lucy promised, "I’ll bake you a cake." Linus got up, headed to the kitchen and said, "Life is more pleasant when you have something to look forward to." There is nothing that can bring us down quicker than the absence of hope. However, millions of people make their way through this life without anything to truly hold on to. It is easy to lose hope. When you look at the world and see starving children, evil running amuck and nations on the brink of war it is hard not to feel hopeless. We often ask the proverbial question, “Where is God?” Christmas not only answers that question but it has the ability to speak words of hope into the most hopeless hearts. The words that the angel said to the Shepherds gave the gift of hope to a people that had felt forgotten by God. Honestly, I really think we feel much like the first century Jews at times. We struggle with the feeling that God has abandoned us. The good news is that these same words spoke by the angel more than two-thousand years ago has the ability ro give us that same gift of hope.
I. A gift of hope for those who feel abandoned by God.
A. It is easy to imagine why the people of Israel felt that God had abandoned them.
1. Since the time Judah and Israel had been carried off into captivity they have been waiting for the Messiah to come and restore Israel.
2. The hope of the Messiah is what kept the people of Israel going. They were looking for a political and military Messiah.
3. Despite being able to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple the people of Israel had only enjoyed about a century of not being ruled by a gentile nation.
4. Now Israel is forced to be under the rule of the Roman Empire. Heavy taxation and brutality made many think that it couldn’t get any worse. The people of Israel seemed to resent the Romans more than any other group that had ruled over them.
5. God has not said anything in more than four centuries, maybe being under the thumb of Rome means that the people’s disobedience has finally carried them too far.
6. Christmas announces that God had not forgotten His people and that He had never stopped working on their behalf. It also highlighted God’s faithfulness.
B. When we face difficulties in our lives it is easy to wonder if God has abandoned us.
1. When things in our lives go wrong it is easy to ask, “What have I done wrong?”
2. For some reason we automatically equate adverse circumstances with wrong behavior on our part.
3. We must understand exactly why God allows us to face adverse situations.
4. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4—NIV 2011)
5. Hope can be found in the fact that God uses the adverse circumstances to form us into the person that He desires us to be.
6. In fact, Christmas reinforces this exact message.
C. When we look at the world in which we live it is easy to wonder if God has abandoned us.
1. People look at the current world situation and say, “If there was a righteous God in control the world would not be like it is.”
2. The problem is we often forget that we live in a world that is contaminated by sin and the results of man’s sin are very visible.
3. Man’s sin doesn’t highlight inactivity on God’s part but man’s stubborn disobedience toward God.
4. Christmas reminds us that God has set into motion a plan to once again set everything right in this world.
5. When the angels appeared to the shepherds and His glory shone around them it showed that God’s presence was still with man.
II. A gift of hope for those who feel unworthy of God’s love.
A. Considering Israel’s history it would have been easy to believe that God had simply given up on them.
1. Is it possible to go too far? Israel had been given chance after chance but the repentance was always short lived.
2. The people probably wondered if God had finally had enough of Israel’s disobedience and empty promises.