Summary: Where is your hope this Christmas? If your hope is in Jesus, you’ll never be disappointed. The true hope of Christmas is for yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Well, Thanksgiving is over. The table is cleared and everything’s gone except the leftovers. You know what that means, don’t you? I know what it means in my house. It means Christmas time is in full swing. Miranda loves Christmastime. For years, if it was up to her, we would have the Christmas tree up year round. As a matter of fact, that was one of the negotiation points we had to work out before we got married. We agreed that the tree and the decorations would not go up until after Thanksgiving. And by New Years Day they were gone. So I guess you know what we were doing after Thanksgiving dinner was finished. Nothing quite compares to stringing out Christmas decorations with an overstuffed belly full of Thanksgiving dinner. But when the tree and the decorations come out, that’s when the kids start to get excited. They get even more excited when the packages start appearing under the tree. We have a tradition where everybody tries to guess what their presents are. Sometimes that can get you in trouble. I remember one time when I was growing up that there was a package under the tree that I was just sure was this toy that I really wanted. I was sure of it. The box was just the right size. It was the right shape. It even weighed the same. I had hoped for that toy ever since I saw it in the catalogue. And now the only thing between me and it was some paper and a box. And then Christmas came. I tore into that box like a dog after raw meat. But it wasn’t what I thought it was. It wasn’t what I had been hoping for. As I remember it was something a whole lot better. It was something I hadn’t even asked for because I thought there was no way I would get it. In a way, I didn’t get what I had hoped for. But in another way, I got so much more than I hoped for. So many times that’s the way our relationship with Jesus is. We can lay out all the things we hope for in life and ask Jesus for them. There are a lot of false prophets out there today that will tell you that’s what Jesus does. They’ll tell you that Jesus is there to grant your wishes and give you all the things on your wish list. And many times when we hear things like that, that’s where we place our hope. Sadly, we place our hope in getting the things on our wish list. Now granted, the things on that wish list can be good things. You can be asking for your health. You can be asking for a good job. You can be asking for a new house. You can be asking for all kinds of good things. And you should pray and ask God about those things. But is that where your hope is? Is your hope in getting a better job? Is your hope in getting a new house or car? Is your hope even in getting better health? If those are the things your placing your hope in, you might be disappointed. You might not get what you’re asking for. But you know what? If your hope is in Jesus, you’ll get something a whole lot better. The hope that Jesus gives is greater than the greatest job. The hope that Jesus gives is greater than the biggest house and the nicest car. The hope that Jesus gives is even greater than perfect health and no sickness and no pain. That is the true hope of Christmas. The hope that doesn’t come in boxes or giftbags. The hope that you can’t get at the mall. The hope that doesn’t fade when the needles begin to fall from the tree. The true hope of Christmas is eternal. It is eternal because the true hope of Christmas is hope for yesterday. It is hope for today. And it is hope for tomorrow. First, the true hope of Christmas is hope for yesterday. Look with me again at verse 4:
The true hope of Christmas is hope for yesterday. I remember that either for Boy Scouts or for school one year, I had to sell these candles with Currier & Ives prints on them. I never have been much of an artsy kind of guy, but I liked those candles. I like them the same way that I like Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkade. I think I like all of those artists because they all have a way of portraying the past. They look at the past like it was a perfect time. Like it was serene and calm and funny and warm. And a lot of our memories are like that. But a lot of our memories aren’t. Some of us hold onto memories of what we might brush away as “youthful rebellion.” Some of us hold onto memories of strife and contention. Some hold on to memories of regrets and unfulfilled responsibilities. Some of us even hold on to memories of others in our lives that have hurt us. Memories of emotional pain and even physical pain. You see, all memories aren’t like Currier & Ives prints. They’re not all happy faces and good times. Because if all memories were good ones, there would be no need for God’s grace. Paul was thankful for God’s grace. He knew what it meant to have a past. You remember Paul’s past. His past was so bad that when Jesus saved him, he had to change everything—even his name. His old name was Saul. And the first time we see Saul in the New Testament is in Acts 7. Acts 6-7 tells of the time when Stephen was stoned to death as the first Christian martyr. Listen to the end of the account in 7:57-8:1: “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” That was Paul’s past. Later on in Acts 8:3, the Bible says, “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” Not exactly a Currier & Ives print, is it? Paul had a past, but Jesus in His grace saved him from that past. It didn’t make the past disappear, but it gave him hope. It gave him hope that Jesus’ blood had covered the sins of his past and wiped them clean. Even though the memory was still there, Paul could thank God for His grace. Instead of his past being a prison that continued to bind him… he was free. He was free from the bondage of his past. That’s grace. That’s hope. But he wasn’t just thanking God for the grace He had shown him. He was thankful for God’s grace in the lives of those Christians he was writing to. Later on in chapter 6 he reminded them of their past. In verses 9-10, he pointed his finger at “those other” people and said, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” And then in verse 11 he reminded them of their own past. He said, “And such were some of you.” I don’t know your past. I don’t know what sins you have in your background. I don’t know what terrible things might have happened to you in your past. But like Paul with the church at Corinth, I’m safe to say, such were some of you. But do you know how Paul finished that verse? First he said that those awful things describe the sins that some of you have in your past. And then he said something wonderful. Then he said, “But ye are washed. But ye are sanctified. But ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Paul said, “I’ve got a past.” “You’ve got a past.” But God’s grace which is given you by Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover that past and cleanse you from it. That’s hope. Hope that your past doesn’t have to be your burden. Hope that your past doesn’t have to be your misery. Hope that your past doesn’t have to be your heartache. Hope that when Jesus was born on that very first Christmas morning… He was born to pay for your past. He was born to give Himself as a sacrifice for your past. And He was born to give you hope that springs from your past. The hope of Christmas is hope for yesterday. The hope of Christmas is also hope for today. Look at verses 5-7a: