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Advent 2022

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Pre-Sermon: Advent, which means to arrive is the beginning of the Church calendar. Beginning 4 Sundays before Christmas, Advent is a season of anticipation and preparation. During Advent, we should purposefully anticipate and prepare our hearts for God our Savior – for the God who continually “Advents” – who comes to His wayward creation. During Advent, we should prepare our hearts for God our Redeemer, who stepped into this world as a Baby, born of Mary. It is a time that we celebrate the first arrival of Emmanuel, God with us, and we anticipate second coming of Jesus, the God who saves us.
“It is said that the door to the stable where the Christ-child has been born is very low - and only those who kneel find access. Being ready for Christmas should mean that our thoughts are focused not just on [presents and parties and such], but on repentance, [humility] and interior ‘housecleaning.’ John the Baptist warned his hearers to prepare a way for the Lord - to make a clear and level pathway.” ~ Celtic Daily Prayer.
We say Jesus is the reason for the season, but do our lives truly reveal that? If Advent is to be a season of anticipation and preparation, then I challenge us as the people of God to push back against the world and how it celebrates Christmas. If it’s really about Jesus the Christ, then really make it about Jesus the Christ. So, as we begin Advent, what can you do this season to prepare your heart, your home, your community for Christ? The answer may not come immediately, but I do encourage us to seriously consider including more of Jesus in our Christmas.
During the 4 Sundays of Advent, we observe a theme each Sunday– Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. I encourage you to follow along with the Bible Project 28 Day daily devotion in your handout. My sermons will be a little different. Lastly, our services may go a tad longer as we add a few items, so I will not be having Sunday school and encourage you to fellowship.
Sermon - Turn to 1 Peter 1.
Every book in the Bible was written by a particular author, to a particular audience, for a particular reason. Every letter or book has a theme in Scripture has a theme. What is Peter’s theme?
“First Peter is about maintaining hope in the midst of suffering. Because Jesus Himself suffered, and because God can be trusted to put all things right, Peter counsels believers to maintain their faith in Jesus.
Believers should do so even when they are being persecuted, mocked, and misunderstood; they should also imitate Jesus by enduring unjust suffering with grace. Hardships are bound to come in this life, but they do not have the last word. ~ FaithLife Study Bible
What’s your hardship? Does it have the last word – or is there a place for hope?
Let’s watch this video from the Bible Project then we’ll continue.
A few thoughts before we get into the Peter. Remember,
Hope is not optimism. Optimism looks for the good in a situation. Hope looks for God in a situation.
There is a difference. Optimism has its place, but Hope is better. Let’s say your house collapsed and everything is destroyed – furniture, clothing, etc. Optimism looks for something good. Optimism would say, “At least I listened to my mom for once and put on clean underwear.”
Hope is different. Hope looks for God – Father, Son, Spirit - in the situation. Hope looks for God who can take a bad situation and actually do something with it. Optimism tends to ignore what is in order to look for something good (i.e. ignores the collapsed house). But hope doesn’t ignore the severity of the situation. Biblical
Hope acknowledges the reality of chaos, evil, injustice, and suffering in our world. Hope looks through what is, to find God and reject despair.
Hope looks for the God who can redeem, save, transform. Hope looks for the God who parted the Red Sea, who killed the giant, who calmed the raging storm and looks for the Savior who died and rose from the grave – the Savior who bring justice and make all things right.
Hope believes what God can do and anticipates what He will do.
Hope believes God can bring something good out of the collapsed house – we just don’t know when – so we anticipate – which has been the way of God’s people since the beginning.
1 Peter 1:1–2 NIV
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
… or chosen – people who have come to faith in Christ – Christians. And they are what? … exiles scattered – refugees, persecuted, on the run, their lives have been disrupted, life is not going the way they planned – just wanted to go to college, get a good job, have a family …
Peter is writing to Christians who have lost their homes, jobs, friends, loved ones, lost security, stable income, dreams .… These are the Christians who would soon be tossed to the lions …. And the Peter writes,
1 Peter 1:3 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
What! Praise God in the midst of chaos, loss, and suffering? Yes, this was not His design, but
Praise can be prevention for discouragement and provision for strength in difficult times.
Praise can keep us from despair and from losing our way. So, if you need God in the midst of your trials, try praising Him (not easy). At a minimum, if we know Jesus as our Savior, we can praise Him because -
1 Peter 1:3–4 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
New life – now and forever!
Have you received God’s gift of mercy, gift of forgiveness in Jesus Christ?
And it is a gift, given to us and wrapped up in Jesus Christ to those who trust in Him.
One of the benefits of this new birth is a living hope. What is a living hope? If something is living, it’s what? Not dead! Alive, perpetual, eternal. We have this hope no matter where we are or what we’re going through. Like Shadrach …. They had hope that God would rescue them from the fire, but even if God didn’t, they knew He would ultimately save their souls.
God provides this hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead … and because of Jesus ...
1 Peter 1:5–7 NIV
who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Remember, Peter is writing to people who have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Let that sink in.
God’s people have never been and never will be exempt from grief, hatred, persecution, suffering, and trials. But God’s people have always had and still have a living hope in God.
And in Christ we have a living lasting perpetual unconquerable hope that goes beyond our suffering and trials, goes beyond this temporary life. Only in Jesus Christ do we have such a living hope. Do you have this living hope? You can, by trusting and believing in Jesus, the Son of God.
1 Peter 1:8–9 NIV
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Where does a Christian’s hope and joy come from? Our salvation - our deliverance from the bondage of sin and death – not necessarily from the elimination of trials.
The hope and joy of salvation is just as much about Heaven as it is about our personal and communal renewal, transformation and healing
… in this life.
Hope is not only about Jesus ushering us into His Kingdom; it’s also about Jesus ushering His Kingdom into us
- our hearts.
As we allow Jesus to put more of His Kingdom into our hearts, the more hope we have and the more hope we can give.
What does Peter encourage these exiles to do? Sit in the corner and wait for Jesus to come back? Does he tell them to believe everything they read in the news about how bad things are …?
1 Peter 1:13–17 CEB
Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children, you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy. Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your dwelling in a strange land.
Hope arises from realizing this is not our home.
We are exiles and sojourners. If we cling too tightly to this world, our hope will diminish. Learn to hold this world and your stuff and your dreams loosely.
1 Peter 1:22 NIV
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
While in exile.
I’ll conclude with this. We receive our hope from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the work of the Holy Spirit. Our faith in God does not exempt us from trials, but hope looks for God and trusts God in the trials. So, on this first day of Advent, I encourage us to choose hope. And as we choose hope, choose also to share your hope with a hopeless world.
Adapted from Francis of Assisi, Italian monk (1181–1226)
ALL: Lord, make us an instrument of thy peace;
PASTOR: That where there is hatred,
ALL: may we bring love;
PASTOR: That where there is wrong,
ALL: may we bring a spirit of forgiveness.
PASTOR: That where there is discord,
ALL: may we bring harmony;
PASTOR: That where there is error,
ALL: may we bring truth;
PASTOR: That where there is doubt,
ALL: may we bring faith.
PASTOR: That where there is despair,
ALL: may we bring hope;
PASTOR: That where there are shadows,
ALL: may we bring light;
PASTOR: That where there is sadness,
ALL: may we bring joy.
PASTOR: Lord, grant that we may seek to comfort, rather than to be comforted;
ALL: To understand rather than to be understood;
PASTOR: To love rather than to be loved;
For it is in giving that we are received;
ALL: It is by forgiving that we are forgiven.
All: And it is by dying that we awaken to eternal life. Amen.
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