Summary: Part one of a four part series on the four themes of Advent - hope, peace, joy, and love. Describes "hope" and how it is powerful and beneficial.
I enjoy celebrating Advent first, and then celebrating Christmas. You see, our world has commercialized Christmas so much so that what used to be a fairly sacred time of year is now only talked about in terms of company profits, consumer spending, Hollywood blockbuster movies, TV events, finding the right gift or buying the newest gift on the market, and 24 hour/7 day a week “holiday” music. Even those of us who still celebrate the birth of our Savior tend to get “wrapped up” in all of the commercialism and the busyness.
But Advent causes us to stop – and it allows us to relax, and to focus, rest, meditate, and celebrate the birth of Christ. During the very first week of Advent we focus on hope. But what is HOPE? It is such a misunderstood word – we use hope as word that carries much uncertainty – “I hope the Patriots win the Super Bowl” or “I hope we can build a new building soon.” But our hope – the way we use the word – is not the same way the Bible speaks of hope. The Bible speaks of hope as something that is certain to happen because God said it would happen – what we call a “confident expectation” (say that with me).
We have spent the past three months talking about a related word – faith – do you remember what faith is? Faith is trusting in and acting on what God has said. Hope is similar, in that it also trusts in what God has said, but there is a unique and powerful difference. Let me give you an example of each:
AN EXAMPLE OF FAITH - The Bible says in Matthew 6:33 (screen) – “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” What is the instruction? Make God’s kingdom your primary pursuit and what…? These words of Christ hold a great promise, don’t they? Pursue God first, and all your needs will be taken care of. This promise requires faith. Any promise upon which you can act and bring a result requires faith.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOPE – Isaiah 9:6-7 – Let’s read it together again.
6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”
This is a promise of God that has been partially fulfilled, right? And there is more to come, because right now the government doesn’t rest on His shoulders, and He does not currently rule over all the earth. So is this is a promise to you and me? But where is the action that you can take on this promise? There is none. So my response to this promise is HOPE – I confidently expect that the Lord will bring about what He says. Hope is “confident expectation” – hope says, “One day, Jesus Himself will return and fix this world’s mess! That’s WHAT? HOPE! A promise upon which I cannot act but only wait requires hope.
A promise with action requires my faith while a promise with no action requires hope – my confident expectation. Turn to Heb. 11 – let’s read vs. 13-16 together (sheet):
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
As we have looked at the great “Hall of Faith” over the past few months in Hebrews 11, this is also a Hall of HOPE, because sometimes no matter how much men and women of God believed and trusted, the promise of God didn’t happen within their lifetimes. No amount of faith could have brought about the promises of God, and so they died “still believing” - they had HOPE that God’s promises would happen whether they saw them or not.
There is great strength and freedom that HOPE can give to us. To start Advent (what does Advent mean? Coming), I want us to see how HOPE can make us stronger and empower us. The first week of Advent is a time for us to remember that the Jews for thousands of years held onto the hope of the Messiah coming, and that Hope was fulfilled at Jesus’ birth. That pushes us to confidently look, as Paul reminds us in Titus 2:13, to “look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” The first Advent makes us look forward with hope and anticipation to the 2nd Advent. If God followed through with His promise the first time, He WILL DO SO AGAIN when Jesus comes back! Israel’s hope was the first Advent; our hope is the 2nd Advent.