Summary: Advent lets us go to those places of waiting and unearth them, hold them out in front of us, and cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus!" “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel.”
TITLE: THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 64:4
We continue our Advent series this morning with the thought – The Audacity of Hope. It was the REV. DR. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, former Pastor of TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, who ultimately served as the Pastor to former President Barak and First Lady Obama. Dr. Wright would do the honor of performing the wedding ceremony of the Obama’s before the world knew who they were. President Obama would go on to become a Senator out of Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Wright would also baptize the daughters of the Obama’s.
President Obama was moved by a sermon delivered by his Pastor during his early years. The sermon was entitled “THE AUDACITY TO HOPE.” The sermon was so inspiring that President Obama would write his second book that would go on to become a best seller – He changed the title slightly from the sermon and entitled his book – The Audacity of Hope. He would use this thought and theme during a DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION that would ultimately place him in the Spotlight of the World. I would like to lift that that same thought for a few minutes this morning – The Audacity of Hope.
Hope is a strange thing. Every day we use that small, magical word—HOPE. It's tough to live or even make it through a single day without hope. So let’s begin with a simple question -- What is Hope?
• Hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present
• Hope is a vision that things will get better
• There's something up ahead, around the corner, in sight, and it's good
• But that good future isn't just abstract, because it reaches in and transforms us in the present
What therefore, is the purpose of Christian Hope? As believers, what precisely do we hope for? These are apt questions to ask as we continue our Advent journey particularly following our celebration of Thanksgiving a few weeks ago where prayers of thanksgiving and anguish echoed from our family tables and the streets of our cities. This ushered in a season marked by hope with candles lit for a meal and buildings lit in despair ought to give us pause when considering WHAT IT IS THAT HOPE IDENTIFIES AND MAKES POSSIBLE, beyond, of course, some heartfelt longing or wistful yearning.
FOR HOPE IS NOTHING BUT FACILE OPTIMISM if it is not a power we are given to desire after and SEE GOD’S PRESENCE AND PROVISION in a time and in a world where God’s promise of salvation is not always obvious.
From the outset, we must avoid confusing Christian hope with a spirit of Can-Do Optimism. Christian hope is not “Positive Thinking” nor can it be reduced to Feel-Good Slogans. The gift of hope grounded in Divine Grace is not some kind of motivational tool that can be thrust into the service of one’s PERSONAL – PROFESSIONAL - or SPIRITUAL goals. If anything, the hope we embrace is somewhat precarious.
Matter of fact, Christian Hope can be somewhat of a Paradox. We stand in the pulpit each week and speak visions of –
• Peace and Hope
• Hills made low and Valleys raised up
• Lions lying down with Lambs
• Swords beaten into Plowshares
We read ominous warnings of the end and watch what looks like a crazy man cry out in the wilderness that salvation is coming.
• We pronounce beautiful promises to the poor and oppressed
• We center our worship on the ethereal concepts of Hope – Peace - Joy – Love
And then after the Sunday morning benediction we exit to the parking lot and get back into our cars and drive into the swirling Vortex of –
• Charity drives
• Ringing Bells of Salvation Army
• Jewelry commercials
• TV Commercial with Christmas Products being sold – BUT WAIT, buy now and get the Second One Free!
• Consumer guilt
• Family pressures
• Worries about money drowned out by tinsel, carols, baked sweets
• Promises of incredible interest-free financing for 18 months
• And the words of peace and hope for an amped-up and worn-out world seem quaint and pretend
• Not really real at all
If we are not careful, hope can give way to what feels real.
• I can describe for you the smell walking through a mall
• The taste inside my seasonal red Starbucks cup
• The sound of the 24/7 holiday music stations
• The feeling each time I hand over my credit card
• When I turn on the news and see more war and starvation and sickness and foolishness of our President
• When I look into my own life and the lives of those I love, and let myself notice all the brokenness and anger, the sadness and stuckness