Summary: Christmas Series part 1
In an old Calvin and Hobbes comic strip - this conversation takes place. In the first frame Calvin speaks to Hobbes and says: "Live for the moment is my motto. You never know how long you got". In the second frame he explains "You could step into the road tomorrow and WHAM, you get hit by a cement truck! Then you’d be sorry you put off your pleasures. That’s what I say - live for the moment." And then he asks Hobbes: "What’s your motto?" Hobbes replies: "My motto is - Look down the road."
Today we began the Advent season by lighting the first Advent candle, the candle of hope. As we heard a few minutes ago, this candle reminds us of the hope God gave His people when He promised to send them a Messiah, a Savior, a Deliverer. The candle reminds us that prophecies were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. And it invites us to look down the road in hope to the day of Christ’s Second Coming, when all the promises that were initially fulfilled at His birth will be completely fulfilled at His return.
Some people are, by nature, optimistic. It is their natural temperament. Others are, by the same token, pessimistic. You often get what you expect. One man sees a rose bush as in terms of thorns; another sees only the roses. One man sees the dark side of every cloud, while the other looks for the silver lining.
But genuine hope can never be based on your subjective outlook, your particular temperament. The person whose hope has no real basis, other than a general optimistic spirit, is clutching a hope that is deaf, dumb, and blind. The only valid hope is Christian hope.
I mention all this because it highlights the fact that Christianity is a religion of hope. It is a faith that looks down the road to the future, to the time when God’s promises will be fulfilled. That was true for God’s people back in O.T. days, as they looked forward to the birth of the promised Messiah.
It was true for Mary and Joseph as they looked down at their newborn son, knowing that the time for the fulfillment of God’s promises had finally come. And it’s true of us today as we look forward to the return of Christ. Our faith is a future-focused faith, a religion of what is to come, a religion of hope.
Now, I could end here if it weren’t for one thing. Hope is not automatic. In fact, sometimes hope is very difficult. How do we sustain hope in the midst of disappointment and difficulty?” How do we keep from being completely overwhelmed by trials and pain? How do we maintain an attitude of hope when everything seems to crush us like a bug on the windshield of life?
We’ve all faced situations where there seems to be little objective reason for hope – in our jobs, in our marriages, in relationships with family members. Some of us have faced seemingly hopeless medical or financial problems. Some of you, right now, may be in situations that seem hopeless, so that you are tempted to give up hope. How do we hold on to hope during those times when our circumstances seem hopeless?
First, put your hope in God. Trust in Him for help. That may seem obvious, but too often we are willing to seek help from anyone and anything before we turn to God. If the problem is financial, we don’t look to God first; we look to a banker or a rich relative. If the problem is relational, a conflict with a spouse or a family member, we’ll buy books on marriage, scour articles in magazines, listen to Oprah or Dr. Phil, and then finally, maybe turn to God for help. We will try everything we can think of, and then if nothing else works, we will think of praying. But that’s backwards! We should go to God first, not last.
I believe that the Bible expresses one thing that we need to hear clearly again. We can HOPE in the midst of life’s circumstances because the one that we HOPE in is greater than the sum of life’s circumstances. If “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” as the wonderful old hymn goes, then we have great HOPE. We have much to HOPE on. We have a great God to HOPE on.
This is why we sing about Emmanuel at Christmas — God is with us. He was with us 2000 years ago, and he is with us now in this present moment. We have a God who cared enough to come.
When Christ our Savior came as a baby to the manger at Bethlehem, he came to a cold, desolate world that had no hope. It had been about 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. God had not been heard from in 400 years. At least in the O.T. he burned bushes and spoke in gentle whispers. But 400 years of silence had led to a loss of hope.