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Summary: A sermon for Advent 1 on the theme of hope.

Advent 1 – Jesus Our Hope – November 27, 2011 - Luke 1:26-38

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas day. Advent is a time to reflect on the reality of the Incarnation, that to us a child is born, and a son is given.

One who will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. One whose power brings us peace. One whose Kingdom is of justice and righteousness. One Who will be great and called the Son of the Most High God.

It’s also a time when we can perhaps understand afresh why it is that Jesus is so central to our faith, to who we are as a church and as a mission.

For those here who are wondering what this church-thing is all about, Advent may open some doors to understanding the heart of Christian hope, and just why Christian service to the world expressed through ministries like Yonge Street Mission happens at all.

But first, let me tell you a story

Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection.

Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed father looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector.

But the day came when war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram that his beloved son had been killed while carrying a fellow soldier to a medic.

On Christmas morning a knock came at the door of the old man’s home, and as he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand.

He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” “I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.”

As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of his son. Though the art critics would never consider the work a piece of genius, the painting did feature the young man’s face in striking detail, and seemed to capture his personality.

The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation! According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned.

The day soon arrived, and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings.

The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked. Minutes passed with not a sound from those who came to buy.

From the back of the room someone callously called out, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the important paintings.”

There were other voices which echoed in agreement. But the auctioneer replied, “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?”

Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. “I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it. I will bid the $100.” “I have a bid for $100,” called the auctioneer. “Will anyone go higher?”

After a long silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once. Going twice. Gone.” The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone was heard to say, “Now we can get on with it!”

But the auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room.

Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars worth of art here!

We demand that you explain what’s going on!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son... gets it all.”

That is the essence of the story of Christmas: Whoever takes the Son gets it all. The Bible puts it like this: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life”

Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas day, the message is still the same - the love of a Father - a Father whose greatest joy came from his son who went away and gave his life rescuing others.

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