Summary: A sermon for the first Sunday in Advent. Hope.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
For Thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever.”
It is that time of year again. Snow is on the ground, Christmas music is on the radio, Christmas lights are popping up everywhere, Christmas trees are going up, and we as Christians start out the season of the church year that we call advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin Adventus, and means "the coming of the Saviour.” It is a holy season of the Christian church that marks a period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, also known as the season of Christmas.
The church is decorated properly with greenery everywhere, representing the evergreen hope, love, joy, and peace of the coming of our Lord. The liturgical color is purple, signifying great royalty in the coming of our lord. And the Advent Candles next to the baptismal font, represent a journey… a journey each week bringing us closer and closer to Bethlehem.
Today is the first Sunday in advent, a Sunday represented by our first candle… the hope candle. And with the story of the shepherd and the lighting of the candle, we have begun our journey… venturing forward with those shepherds towards the little town of Bethlehem, and the message of the morning, the message of the candle being lit, the message on the hearts and lips of the shepherds beginning their journey, and the message we should be focused on… is the message of a great hope.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves… I have to ask a quick question of clarification. What is hope? It is a term that can so easily be thrown around. “I hope we have clear weather tomorrow.” “I hope we have a white Christmas.” “I hope the Vikings win.” “You hope the Bears win.” But that is not the kind of hope that is represented by the lone candle burning brightly this Sunday.
The hope represented by that candle, is a much greater and much grander hope. It represents the hope of an entire nation, it represents the hope of the entire world. It represents something that you and I often take for granted.
You know… we probably hear the Christmas story told every single year, but we forget what it was like before that very first Christmas; what it was like before the savior came. Imagine yourselves in the shoes, or in this case… the sandals, of the shepherd we heard about this morning.
His religious life was much different than our own. Church was much more about following strict laws and coming into the sanctuary for little more than to make sacrifice and offerings to pay the atonement for the breaking of the strict laws they were supposed to be following.