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Summary: When you can't cope, hold onto the rope of hope.

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Hope – God Promises

Luke 2:38

Rev. Brian Bill

December 10-11, 2016

I really like those words we just heard – when Jesus was born the night was lit with hope and promise and on the day He died, the day was dimmed with grief and sorrow.

And our lives today are filled with a combination of hope and hopelessness, of promise and problems.

That reminds of Larry and Elmer who were out hunting in the woods and got lost. Trying to reassure his friend, Larry said, “Don’t lose hope. All we have to do is shoot into the air three times, stay where we are, and just hope that someone finds us.” They shot into the air three times, but no one came. After a while, they tried again but there was still no response. They decided to try once more but not before Elmer said, “I hope it works this time. We’re down to our last three arrows.”

Perhaps you feel like you’re down to your last three arrows…

Some of you are feeling hopeless and helpless…unhappy and sad…your days have been decimated by disappointment as your expectations have evaporated…sadness and sorrow…loss and lament…relational ruptures…death and distance.

Glitter and good cheer have been replaced with littered lives and great fear…

The gap between the Christmas IDEAL and what’s REAL can leave us feeling disappointed, discouraged and in despair.

Instead of a Norman Rockwell painting, many of us are experiencing some version of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

All this makes it hard to cope at Christmas…

If we were to take a survey we would find that hope is hard to find during the holidays. It’s tough to sing, “Joy to the World” when there’s so much junk in our lives and in world.

Hope is not only hard to find; it’s difficult to define. Some equate hope with an optimistic feeling that all will turn out well. We hear this every spring from Cubs fans...only now they can say it with some authority! For some it’s wishful thinking whether it’s related to the weather: “I hope it’s nice today” or a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled.

Here’s a biblical definition of hope that we can hold onto: Hope is longing for what God has already promised us.

In the Old Testament hope means, “to bind together, often by twisting.” It refers to the process of making a rope by taking two strands of material and twisting them together. Understood in this way, hope means that I bring my pain to the Lord on the one hand and on the other hand I hold to specific promises of God. To hope means to wrap my problems together with God’s promises.

We could say it this way: Hold on to the rope of hope when it’s hard to cope.

The word “hope” is used some 52 times in the New Testament and is always connected in some way to God; that’s enough hope for every week of the year!

By its very definition hope is something that is invisible. Romans 8:24-25: “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

These two verses teach that if we’re going to hold on to the rope of hope so that we can cope, we must embrace its past, present and future dimensions. When your grip begins to slip, hold on to…

1. Past Promises. The Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Christ as God progressively reveals His plan to send His promised One. In Isaiah 64:1 the prophet longingly pleads: “Oh, that you would rend [tear, rip open] the heavens and come down…” This was fulfilled when Jesus was given the name Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” God came down at Christmas. In the first half of the Bible we read of people hoping and longing and waiting. After Jesus is born, we see this longing fulfilled.

2. Present Provisions. When you feel like you can’t cope, God provides hope. Psalm 46:1: “God is an ever-present help in trouble.” Lamentations 3:25 says that the “Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him.” The key isn’t to hope for something; but to hope in Someone.

When I ponder the pain and disappointment that many are going through this time of year, I often purposely mispronounce “Christmas.” It helps me to say “Christ-mess,” because it reminds me that Jesus has come into our mess, into our mistakes, into our pain and our problems, into our sinful world. He was born in a smelly stable, in a borrowed manger when He took on human flesh. We don’t have to clean ourselves up for Him, but rather invite Him into our mess…and He will then clean us up.

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