Good morning, Gateway Chapel!
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
What do you want for Christmas?
When I say that, what comes to mind?
Does a Maria Carey song start playing in your head? What images pop into your mind?
I think about those old Toys ‘R Us toy catalogues. And now Amazon makes them because us millenials are having kids and we love our phones but boy do we love a toy catalogue.
What do you want for Christmas?
Did you just remember you told someone you would give them your wishlist, but you can’t think of anything? Or maybe you’re panicked because you have no clue what to get your wife, your husband, your mom, your dad for Christmas? You drew your Uncle Mike for Christmas gift and you don’t even remember what he does for work and you’ve known him your whole life…I guess get him a gift card?
What do you want?
Stuff comes to mind, things come to mind. But we know that while there might be a few THINGS we would like, there are deeper desires present.
Once Christmas is all said and done, you’re sitting at home, you’ve got a cup of coffee, you take a slow exhale, and you say, “You know what, that was a good Christmas.” What happened? Is it because you got a Nespresso? Or a nice sweater from Costco? What makes this season truly successful?
What do you want?
Some of us may be feeling hopeless. You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. You don’t know when this season of sickness will end and you’re just tired. You would love to be renewed with hope.
Maybe you’re feeling anxious. Whether it’s a money reason or a relational reason or maybe a reason you can’t put your finger on, you can’t shake this feeling of tightness in your body. What you would give for peace.
Perhaps you’re feeling lonely. You’ve got friends and family here but people don’t really know what’s going on and you feel like you’re the only one in your shoes. You want love.
Or you’re feeling depressed. It’s been a while since you’ve laughed til your cried and life just seems like an endless January…overcast with a good chance of rain. You want joy.
We all crave HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, and JOY.
As we move into the Christmas season, also known as Advent, we’re going to do a four week sermon series on the 4 Gifts of Advent: HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, and JOY. Advent means coming, just as Jesus came as a baby to Bethlehem and will come again as king.
When Jesus Advents, he brings more than good feelings but true HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, and JOY in himself. And so each of these weeks we’re going to look at how the Bible describes these gifts and how they point to Jesus.
This morning we begin with Hope. My main point this morning is this: Christian hope is about someone and not something. Christian hope is about someone and not something. We’re going to do a brief tour through the Bible and talk about some practical ways to live into hope this season.
What is hope?
What is hope?
According to Wikipedia hope is:
Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.
Hope is the mindset that no matter what things are going on, something might change. The power of positive thinking, some might say.
When I think of hope, here’s what comes to mind.
That little snow icon gets me really hopeful. I can’t wait for snow, especially since I don’t have a commute. I’m hopeful because I have expectation based on what my iPhone told me of a positive outcome with respect to the weather in the next week. I’m looking forward to Tuesday and if I don’t get snow, I’m going to be seriously bummed.
When we have hope, there is almost nothing we can’t do. I will endure a rainy sad Monday for snow on Tuesday.
Without hope, life becomes unbearable. We need hope to survive.
Hope, according to Wikipedia, is about someTHING changing, like the weather.
How does the Bible describe hope?
Shoutout to the Bible project for a lot of the bones of this sermon and sermon series. Theda and Marissa put together artwork for the sermon series as well out in the hallway.
There are multiple Hebrew words for hope, and the first of which appears in the story of Noah and the flood in Genesis 8:11-12.
You know the story…in the beginning, God created everything…and everything at some point was kind of like a teenager’s bedroom…a chaotic wasteland, and God took that wasteland and made it good. But humans sinned and preferred the wasteland to the garden, and so in the story of Noah and the flood, we see God giving the people what they want…a return to chaos.
Maybe you’re like the flood isn’t a Christmas story what’re you talking about? We’ll get there...
8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.
This is a great image of hope.
If anyone had a reason to be hopeless, it was Noah. He’s on a boat with a ton of animals, and he’s looking out on nothing but water.
It’d be like if the Lahar happened and you survived on a piece of metal and you looked out and all you saw was mudflow.
But Noah waits…he hopes…why? Because the dove brought back an olive leaf. It’s a sign to have hope.
What is Noah feeling at this point?
Likely tension. Anticipation. Excitement. Noah waited 7 days to send out the dove, depending on what you’re waiting for, 7 days can feel like 7 minutes or 7 decades.
To hope is to wait with great anticipation and tension.
So is Christian hope the same thing as Wikipedia hope? Waiting for someTHING to change?
What are we hoping for?
Christian hope is not in someTHING but in someONE.
As I mentioned, there are multiple words for hope in the Old Testament, and we see another in Isaiah 8:17.
17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.
What is Isaiah hoping for? He’s waiting and hoping for God.
Christian hope is firmly fixed not in a someTHING but in a someONE.
Even though things look bleak, Isaiah puts his hope in someONE.
In Isaiah 8, things are dark. Israel is on the brink of national destruction.
As it says in the verse it says that even though things look terrible right now, God will come.
In fact, just a few verses down we have one of the most famous Christmas passages in the Bible.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah is putting his hope in God, not in a series of events.
The Psalms use this language all the time. We prayed these verses just a minute ago.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
Or is Psalm 39...
7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
Christian hope is not the same thing as optimism.
Optimism looks at the future and says, “I can see how things might change and get better.”
In a recent interview, Pattinson, opened up about career choices: “I don’t want to make a mistake on what to do next ... You just have to kind of think: Well, my plan is maybe a miracle will happen and everything will be fine. Which is what I think everyone has been thinking for two years." He then concludes in an uncertain voice, "Just … Uhh, I guess the plan is to just hope?”
Hope without assurance is shaky.
But biblical hope is different.
Biblical hope is based on the certainty of God’s word which motivates us for the future.
Biblical hope is in someONE and not someTHING.
Noah could hope in dry land because God promised him that he would save him and his family.
Isaiah could hope in God because God promised to stay with his people and save them.
The Psalmists could hope in God because of God’s promises and his character.
What are you hopeful for today?
So often I am hopeful for THINGS to happen. And that’s not wrong! But biblical hope is based on the assurance of someONE which is greater than hoping in someTHING.
What does Jesus have to do with hope?
What does Jesus have to do with hope?
Jesus is the someONE of Christian hope.
All throughout the Old Testament, God promises that someONE will come and save his people. That person is called the Messiah.
And along comes Jesus of Nazareth.
He is born of a virgin in a little town of Bethlehem. He is born from the line of David. He is the one who perfectly fulfills the promises of God to send someone to save his people.
But he’s not what the people of God expect. He brings hope to outsiders like prostitutes and people who work for the government. And he rejects people in power like the religious leaders.
And because he claimed to be the Messiah - the man of hope - and because he upset those in power, they killed him on a Roman cross. But more than the power of positive thinking was at play in Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit, God raised Jesus from the dead and he appeared to hundreds of people.
So the church was born as people who said our hope has been fulfilled not in someTHING but in someONE and that someONE is Jesus.
And in the New Testament we read verses like
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Jesus is a LIVING hope, and through faith in hope we are born again as PEOPLE OF HOPE.
Biblical hope is ALIVE in Jesus. It is not in someTHING but hope based in someONE.
And it is not uncertain, but imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
And Biblical hope is very bold. It’s not just hope in things turning around for me in the near future, but biblical hope is for the redemption of all of humanity.
Paul says in Romans 8:20-21...
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Our hope is ALIVE, BOLD, and is an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading hope in Jesus.
Because our hope is in someONE and not someTHING, what might it look like for us to grow as people of hope this Advent season?
Binge Hope by Reading
Binge Hope by Reading
Most of you are familiar with the term binging, right? Binging is when you consume content in huge chunks in one sitting…like watching Season 5 of the Crown on Netflix in one night. I know none of you would ever do that.
Currently in our family we are binging Disney music via Alexa. Without too much effort I could probably go toe to toe with Lin Manuel Miranda and sing all of Moana or Encanto. But because I am engrossed in those songs, I have those stories engrained in my mind. I find myself singing, “I am Moana...” as I just go about my day.
Consider reading your Bible a ton this holiday season because it’s a story about Jesus which makes it a story about hope.
Bible readers are objectively more hopeful than non-Bible readers.
During the midst of the Pandemic, The American Bible society, with help from Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program found that...
“Frequent Bible readers rated themselves 33 points more hopeful than irregular Scripture readers did in two surveys of more than 1,000 people done six months apart. The study also found that people are more hopeful when they read Scripture more frequently.
On a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most hopeful, Americans who report reading the Bible three or four times per year scored 42; people who read monthly scored 59; weekly, 66; and multiple times per week, 75.” - Adam MacInnis, “When Covid-19 Hurts, The Bible Brings Hope,” Christianity Today (January/February, 2021), p. 59
What if, this advent season, you binged your Bible to fill yourself with hope?
Now, if someone sat down with me and said, “Chris, I’m feeling hopeless.” I would ask questions and want to engage pastorally with them, not just say, “READ YOUR BIBLE MORE!” doggonit. But as a whole, to become someone who has hope in Jesus, we must be filled with the stories from God’s word. And if you’re sitting there saying, “Practically, what would it look like for me to be someone who is filled with hope?” I’d say the number one thing is to fill yourself with Scripture.
Why? The Bible is not about someTHING like rules or how to get to heaven when you die it’s about JESUS which makes it about HOPE.
It’s all about hopeless people and hopeless situations being overturned by a faithful God who makes impossible things happen like raising someone from the dead, parting the read sea, giving infertile women children, making blind people see, and freeing slaves.
Biblical characters understand if you feel hopeless. Talk to Noah about feeling hopeless. Have you ever looked out your window and seen nothing but water and wondered if you’d ever see grass again? Talk to Abraham about feeling hopeless. Talk to the disciples on Saturday of Holy Week after they saw their Rabbi murdered and wondered if they were next.
So what do I mean by binging? Did you know you could read your whole Bible by the end of the year if you really wanted to? 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at midday, 30 minutes at night…you could do it. Some of you are trying to not laugh out loud but think about what the result might be if you focused on consuming the Bible in order to be filled with the hope of Jesus.
Or what if you tried sitting down for a couple hours and just reading through a gospel. Or reading Genesis. Switching up the pace of reading the Bible can make it fun and can allow us to see the bigger picture and see how it’s a story of Hope.
I tried it this week. It’s really hard. But what I found was I was actively looking forward to reading because it was something I wasn’t use to. I found myself noticing themes in the story I hadn’t noticed before, like how in Genesis everyone lies to everyone else, except God. And God uses the lies and deceit of others to bring about good. And how God took hopelessly dead situations and people and brought life. I found myself thinking about my own life in the perspective of the Biblical story. My life wasn’t perfect but you begin to realize that worries and fears are normal in life and God is still present and loving.
How can we be filled with hope in Jesus? Binge hope by reading your Bible.
Build Hope by Reflecting
Build Hope by Reflecting
How do we become people who are filled with Jesus’ hope on a daily basis? Build hope by reflecting.
What is the Bible if not written reflections on God’s faithfulness in order that we can look back and be filled with hope?
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
And what follows is the hall of faith.
Consider taking time this week to journal and write down the ways God has been faithful in your life. Maybe that looks like each night, you sit down and just write down 5-10 things that you’re thankful for that God provided for you. Some of you have been journaling fiends for most of your life. What if you sat down and rewrote a story about a time when you thought you were dead in the water, you felt hopeless, and God took care of you?
Journaling has become a practice for me that allows me to look back at the ways God has been faithful, which motivates me for the future to remember he’s not going to abandon me.
Build hope by reflecting.
Bank on Hope in Jesus
Bank on Hope in Jesus
The Christmas season reminds us that there is nothing and no one more certain than Jesus. Unlike a weather forecast, we can be sure of Jesus. He came and he will come again.
Because of God’s faithfulness to send Jesus to save us, he will come again and make all things new. That’s our hope. As you reflect, as you read this holiday season, put your hope in Jesus.
What is our hope in life and death? Christ alone, Christ alone What is our only confidence? That our souls to Him belong Who holds our days within His hand? What comes, apart from His command? And what will keep us to the end? The love of Christ, in which we stand
Unto the grave, what shall we sing? "Christ, He lives; Christ, He lives!" And what reward will heaven bring? Everlasting life with Him There we will rise to meet the Lord Then sin and death will be destroyed And we will feast in endless joy When Christ is ours forevermore
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
What do you want for Christmas? Find hope in Jesus.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.