Summary: We have hope because of: 1. Who we are. 2. Whose we are. 3. Where we are.
On November 21, 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to his fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer, while he was imprisoned by Hitler during World War II. In the letter, he talked about a spiritual lesson he was learning from his life as a prisoner. He wrote: “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of Advent.”
The theme of hope is a welcome one when we are faced with some of the things that life can throw at us. When we are filled with fear, we need the hope of God’s presence, power and promises. When we are faced with pain or illness, we need the hope that God is aware of what is going on in our lives. When a bad and difficult situation goes on for a long time, we need the hope of knowing that God is able to overcome the evil that has besieged us in his time. When it seems the world has lost its mind and has become hostile to God and everything good, then we need the hope of knowing that God is still in control and is the ultimate victor.
It is always at this time of year that we are especially faced with the world’s hostility to Christ and his coming. You can say anything about Christmas these days, except what it is really all about. Of course this is nothing new, it is just as it was when he came 2000 years ago. It came home again to me this year as I read the story of a Christmas parade out in Denver, Colorado. Faith Bible Chapel is among Denver’s largest evangelical churches with over 4,000 people in attendance each week. They wanted to enter a float in the annual Christmas parade which has a 30-year tradition. But they were not allowed to enter a float in the CHRISTmas parade because they planned to sing Christmas hymns and have a simple banner that read “Merry Christmas” on it. It was too provocative. The parade is billed as an “international procession to celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity of the region.” I’m not sure what that has to do with Christmas, but evidently that is the evolution of the event. So instead of a Church float with a message of “Merry Christmas”, the parade will feature gay American Indians, Kung Fu artisans, and belly dancers to get people in the spirit of anti-Christmas. Among those who were allowed to participate in the celebration is the Two Spirit Society of Denver, a support group for American Indians who are homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered, honoring them as “holy people.” The Rocky Mountain News reported that also included in the parade were performers of the Lion Dance, a Chinese New Year tradition “meant to chase away evil spirits and welcome good luck and good fortune for the year.” Parade spokesman Michael Krikorian told the News: “We want to avoid that specific religious message out of respect for other religions in the region. It could be construed as disrespectful to other people who enjoy a parade each year.” Catholic League president William Donohue issued a statement calling those in charge of the parade “cultural fascists.”
But our hope does not rest on the way the culture seems to be drifting — good or bad. Our hope is in something quite different. There are at least three areas from which our hope springs which I want us to look at this morning. The first is: We have hope because of who we are. Who are we? We are the people of God. He has created us with his own hands. He has redeemed us with the blood of his own Son. He has raised Christ from the grave and promised that we will follow in like manner. He is preparing us a place in his kingdom. We are the children of God. We are the redeemed. We are the heirs of a coming kingdom. This is our origin, our present reality and our inheritance. What could be better?
We should not be angry at those who will not allow a simple greeting like “Merry Christmas!” We are marching to a different Drummer in a different parade. We really don’t need to go down Main Street. We should pity those who do not have this hope. We should pray for them with genuine concern. I keep trying to figure out what people do when they do not believe in God. In what do they place their hope? The truth is they have no hope. If this material world is all there is, then there is nothing transcendent or beyond themselves on which they can place their trust and hope. And all that is left is their own ingenuity, strength and success. That might keep you for awhile, but what happens when all those things in which you have placed your trust and hope fail? Success and strength come to an end. There is only an empty void without God. If you have placed all of your hope in your abilities, and your abilities fail, then you are going to have to figure out who you are all over again. If you believe this whole world happened by chance, then chance is all you can hope for. If you believe this world is the result of a cosmic accident, then the best you can hope for is something accidental. If existence does not have meaning, then the best you can hope for is a meaningless existence. If there was no God in the beginning, then the best you can hope for is a godless future.