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Summary: In fearful times, there are also signs of hope. Some turn everything into a sign of fear and conflict. Others can see hope if they allow others to succeed. The child Jesus is a sign of such hope.

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"The time of fear is over; now comes the time of hope."

These words were spoken in the most unlikely of situations. A French novelist, Tristan Bernard, and his wife, were being put into prison by the Gestapo, after the Nazis had overrun France. They were being sent to a concentration camp; whether they would live or die was uncertain; whether they would ever even see each other again was unclear. And yet this astounding word, this amazing declaration.

"The time of fear is over; now comes the time of hope."

In every age there are plenty of things to be afraid of. But in every age there also signs of hope, for those who will see them.

In fact, in every life, yours and mine, there are plenty of things to be afraid of. But the good news of the gospel, the good news of the Advent season, is that in every life, in your life and mine, there are also signs of hope, for those who will see them.

This day, in this hour, whatever is going on around us, whatever is going on inside us, "The time of fear is over; now comes the time of hope."

I

Let’s look at the down side of this first. Let’s look at hopelessness. Let’s look at fear. What does it mean not to see the time of hope? What does it mean to live in hopelessness and fear?

Someone came to John the Baptist one day and complained about Jesus. Their complaint was that Jesus, who had been given his start by John, was now in competition with John, and was, in fact, hurting John’s business. "They came to John and said to him, ’Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.’’’ Look, John, you gave this fellow Jesus a leg up in the prophecy business, and now he’s getting all the attention. Ain’t it awful? Stand up for yourself, John!

Have you noticed that there are those who can turn almost anything into bad news? Some folks can find something wrong with almost anything. Some folks can turn the best news in the world to a disaster. They are the bad news bears. Give them a compliment and it will not be enthusiastic enough. Give them a check for a million dollars and they will grumble about the taxes they’ll have to pay. If the stock market is at an all time high, it will probably crash. If the sun is shining, there will probably be snow before the night is over. For some people, there is no silver lining that doesn’t have a cloud hovering over it!

Even at Christmas, some folks have a talent for ruining its spirit. Give them a gift and it will be the wrong color. Bake them a pie and it’s wrong because it’s not sweet potato. Put up the tree and it’s not as full as last year’s. Sing them a carol, and it’s out of tune. Some folks have the uncanny ability to turn all the good news into bad news.

The name of that disease is hopelessness. Hopelessness turns all good things sour.

But there is something deeper than that I would want you to see about hopelessness. I would want you to see that hopelessness is really about fear. It’s about fear and conflict. Did you catch what was going on when they came to John the Baptist and complained about Jesus? In their hopelessness they wanted to stir up conflict. Listen again to these telling phrases:

“The one who was with you, to whom you testified." You remember, John, Jesus used to be at your side. You built him up. You helped him get started. John, he should be eternally grateful. But no, it looks like this Jesus is striking out on his own. Aren’t you afraid He will surpass you?

And "here he is baptizing". How dare he copy you, John? Don’t you resent it that you invented this baptism thing, and now he is out there stealing your stuff?

And then "Here he is baptizing, and all are going to him." Oh, John, you are losing your following. Everybody is going over to Jesus. He’s gaining in popularity. He’s getting the crowds. Hey, John, aren’t you upset? Don’t you want to fight?

Do you recognize this little game? It’s called "divide and conquer". It’s called, "Let’s you and him fight." You recognize this little game, played by those who just enjoy watching others fight and beat each other up. It’s like staging a dog fight without having to clean up the blood afterwards. Some folks like to stir up conflict.

But what I am adding to this is the idea that conflict is really a sign of fear and of hopelessness. A sign of fear and of hopelessness because those who have no hope see life as destruction, conflict, negatives. Those who live without hope see everything as worthless anyway, so let’s prove it by helping people destroy each other.

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