Hope for the Holy-Days
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
These are the words of our Lord. Thanks be to God.
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations (2273 Any Hope of Rescue?)
Someone has said that if you could convince a man there was no hope, he would curse the day he was born.
Hope is an indispensable quality of life.
Years ago the S-4 submarine was rammed by another ship and quickly sank. The entire crew was trapped in its prison house of death. Ships rushed to the scene of disaster off the coast of Massachusetts. We don’t know what took place down in the sunken submarine, but we can be sure that the men clung bravely to life as the oxygen slowly gave out.A diver placed his helmeted ear to the side of the vessel and listened. He heard a tapping noise. Someone, he learned, was tapping out a question in the dots and dashes of the Morse Code. The question came slowly: “(dot dot, dot dot dot) Is … (dash, dot dot dot dot, dot, dot dash dot, dot) there … (dot dash, dash dot, dash dot dash dash) any … (dot dot dot dot, dash dash dash, dot dash dash dot, dot) hope?”This seems to be the cry of humanity: “Is there any hope?” Hope, indeed, is the basis of all human existence in Christ!
On this First Sunday of Advent we as a church have gathered with a HOPE. We as Christians enter the season of Advent recalling not only the prophecies made of a coming Messiah as in our reading from Isaiah where he prophesies that the people will come and say: Isaiah 2:3
Isaiah 2:3 (ESV)
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
and goes on to say in v. 4
Isaiah 2:4 (ESV)
...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
These were prophecies of the Messiah they expected in the coming of Jesus. We know Jesus came, and we know that he will come again as told to us in the Scriptures.
As we await our Saviors return it’s easy to begin to sound like an impatient child asking if it’s time yet.
“Is it time yet.”
“No, not yet.”
As we learned from our recent series we finished a couple of weeks ago the expectation of a coming Messiah was filled with all kinds of “But whe-e-e-en’s” before Jesus arrived in the incarnation. And as we learn from our Gospel Reading this morning even our Lord, Jesus Christ professes not to know the day nor the hour.
The question then comes, are we ready?
Larry Norman, considered to be the father of Christian Rock penned the haunting song, I Wish We’d All Been Ready, picking up on the theme of our Gospel Scripture Reading from this morning.
The line that ends each stanza is where the song gets its title, “I wish we’d all been ready,” and leads into the chorus:
There’s no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.
That’s the fear side of the equation. And it’s true, none of us want to be left behind.
The Scriptures are filled with prophecies and promises, and so how do we know that we can trust in them?
Imagine what it was like for Noah.
Noah, build a boat - it’s going to rain. Now I challenge you to find any mention of rain in the Bible prior to the great flood. It hadn’t rained yet. Imagine the faith it took. I remember the routine Bill Cosby used to do:
“Who is that?”
“It’s the Lord, Noah, I want you to build an ark.”
“Right…who is this really? What’s an ark?”
“I want you to build it 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits tall.”
“Right…what’s a cubit?” It goes on...
Still, it took a great deal of faith to imagine it would rain, much less flood the earth in a time there had never even been rain.
But God said it would happen. Look at the myriad of prophecies in the Bible that were fulfilled just as they were foretold, and not just generally, but specifically.
So, if we have all these prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled and then the prophecies of the Old Testament of a Messiah that were fulfilled in the coming of Christ, we can also be assured that the prophecy of Christ’s return will be fulfilled as well.
“But whe-e-e-e-en?” Our inner child cries out.
We simply don’t know.
The disciple John wrote not only the Gospel that bears his name but also the pastoral letters. In the first of those letters he writes:
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Just prior to this he writes:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
As we look towards Christmas and the celebration of the birth of our Savior, we also look with hope to Christ’s return. In that time we will be like Him for we are His children as followers, as believers in Jesus Christ.
This is our hope for the Holidays - which is a contraction of Holy Days.
So as we’re going through the next four weeks and someone says to you, “Happy Holidays” remember it’s a contraction, remember it means holy days, and remember for us as Christians it points to the coming of Jesus Christ.
I want to speak to that theme of hope.
There was an experiment done with rats decades back in the 50’s. Dr. Curt Richter took both domesticated and wild rats and placed them in buckets of water. The domesticated rats lasted a longer than the wild rats, despite the fact that wild rats are known to be excellent swimmers. Dr. Richter concluded it was because they gave up. They had a fight or flight response and not being able to do either they just gave up. So he introduced a variable of hope. He took another group of similar rats placed them in buckets of water, but just as they began to drown he took them out, dried them, fed them, cared for them while they recovered. Then, he placed them back in the water. Each time the rats continued to swim for longer and longer periods knowing the hope that they would be rescued.
Just yesterday a man was pulled from the gulf of Mexico more than 15 hours after falling from a cruise ship. How did he hang on for so long? It was hope.
In Romans we read Paul’s words,
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Hope, does not disappoint us. Because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
That is our Hope for the Holy Days, as we look forward not only to celebrating the birth of our Savior, but also eagerly await his return. To God be the glory. AMEN.