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Summary: The world can only offer wishful thinking. Only Christ offers a hope that has substance.The Christmas story may be familiar to us, but how did the ancient prophets envision what the story of the coming Messiah would look like? To understand that we have t

Purpose: To show how Christ's first coming gives us hope.

Aim: I want the listener to embrace and rejoice in the hope Christ brings.

INTRODUCTION: For centuries many Christian churches have celebrated the four Sundays before Christmas as the Season of Advent. Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The first Sunday is the Advent of Hope, the second is the Advent of Peace, the third is the Advent of Joy, and the last Sunday is the Advent of Love. So, today we will focus on how the advent or arrival Jesus Christ brings hope.

Chuck Swindoll explains the importance of hope this way: "(Hope) is something as important to us as water is to a fish, as vital as electricity is to a light bulb, as essential as air is to a jumbo jet. Hope is basic to life....Without that needed spark of hope, we are doomed to a dark, grim existence. How often the word 'hopeless' appears in suicide notes. And even if it isn't actually written, we can read it between the lines. Take away our hope, and our world is reduced to something between depression and despair....hope is more than wishful thinking.

"Hope is a vital necessity of life--a gift that God wants to give to you. (Biblical hope) is a voice crying in the wilderness...a word of enthusiasm for life in the midst of any difficult situation you are in....If you want to smile through your tears, if you want to rejoice through times of suffering, just keep reminding yourself that what you're going through isn't the end of the story...it's simply the rough journey that leads to the right destination...Solid, stable, sure hope. Hope to press on. Hope to endure. Hope to stay focused. Hope to see new dreams fulfilled" [1]

The beautiful Christmas story about the birth of Jesus Christ took place over 2,000 years ago. But, that is not where the story really begins.

Many years before Christ was born several prophets of God predicted that hope would come into the world through a coming Messiah (the God appointed deliverer). The Christmas story includes shepherds, and choruses of angels, and wise men, a miraculous star, and the birth of boy by a woman who had never slept with a man, but the Christmas story is much more than those things.

The Christmas story may be familiar to us, but how did the ancient prophets envision what the story of the coming Messiah would look like? To understand that we have to back up and look at the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.

The world can only offer wishful thinking. Only Christ offers a hope that has substance.

► I. The Christmas Story Includes the Hope of a Messenger

In modern baseball there is a special relief pitcher who is called "the set up man." His role usually involves only pitching in the 8th inning so that the premier relief pitcher can come in and win the game in the 9th inning.

What we learn in the Christmas story is that John the Baptist is God's "set up man" so that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, could come and clearly proclaim God's message.

► A. John's life was predicted by prophets

It was 460 years before John the Baptist was born that the prophet Malachi predicted exactly what John the Baptist would do: Malachi 4:5--6 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (NAU)

Even before Malachi wrote his book the prophet Isaiah declared: Isaiah 40:3 A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. (NAU)

For hundreds of years those prophesies remained unfulfilled. Generation after generation passed and all the while the Jews were eagerly waiting to see these predictions come true.

► B. John's birth was announced by Gabriel

Then God decided to act. In Luke Chapter one God sent the arch angel Gabriel to a priest named Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth and promised to answer their prayer for a son, even though they were both old at the time, and they were to call his name John which means "Jehovah is gracious."

Luke 1:13--17 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. "And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (NAU)

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