Faithlife Sermons

Finding Hope in our Sadness


400 Years of Longing and Expectation

Nehemiah was likely the last historical book of the OT. (there is some disagreement with the timing of Esther, but seems to have been in during the timeline of Ezra and Nehemiah).
As I pointed out last week, Nehemiah leaves us with a feeling of expectation and a longing for things to be completed.
That feeling would persist for 400 years as the people of God waited for the promised King to come.
And though it is only been a week, here we are traveling 400 years to the birth of that very King, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Christmas is our celebration of that Long expected savior, the one God had spoken about long ago through His prophets.

This Christmas is different

I love Christmas. There is this moment around Thanksgiving or just after where it just starts to feel like Christmas.
The weather starts to change, the stores are full swing into decorations, music, and Christmas sales.
There is this overwhelming desire, mixed with a sense of permission to turn on Christmas music (no judgement here if you listen to Christmas music year round).
It just feels like Christmas.
This year feels different though doesn’t it.
So many people posted about how different Thanksgiving was this year.
The familiar sounds, smells, tastes, and traditions weren’t as prevalent this year.
It was a preview of how Christmas may feel.
It isn’t just Covid, many people have lost loved ones this year, so those empty chairs are reminders of how much life has changed.
For others, your Christmas is going to be different because finances have changed, or children have gotten married or started new traditions with their significant other.
Though Christmas is a holly, jolly, joyful time of year, there is a need in all of us to just admit that Christmas may just FEEL different this year.
There is sadness mixed with that holly.
There is anxiousness mixed with that jolly.
There is is loneliness mixed with that merry.
And there disappointment mixed into that joy.
But in all our emotions, negative or positive, the birth of Christ speaks of something eternal that shine light even into the darkest places of our heart.
We are going to examine the feelings of Christmas this season and see how the incarnation of Christ, Jesus our Immanuel, is really what makes Christmas the most wonderful time of year.
700 years before Jesus was born, and 300 years before Nehemiah, God announced the birth of a Son, HIS Son:
Isaiah 9:1–7 ESV
1 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. 4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 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. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah is speaking to a people who are in a dark, difficult place, much like us (even though it is by their own disobedience, unlike us).
He is announcing the birth of His Son who truly is the birth of HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, and JOY, the very themes of Christmas and Advent.
VS 6 is a four-fold description of this Son whose birth will (and has) changed the course of history for eternity.
That is where we will look the next 4 weeks:
How our WONDERFUL COUNSELOR offers HOPE in the midst of our SADNESS.
How our MIGHTY GOD offers PEACE in the midst of our ANXIOUSNESS.
How our ETERNAL FATHER offers us LOVE in the midst of our LONELINESS.
How our PRINCE of PEACE offers us JOY in the midst of our DISAPPOINTMENT.

Hope was born on Christmas day.

“The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoicing.” Those words mean so much more to me this year than ever before.
I am weary, aren’t you?
I long for hope that would lead me to rejoicing.
Hope is a word we use often.
“I hope I get the job.” “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” “I hope I can get a good grade on this test.”
We most often use the word “hope” as a possible outcome to a situation.
But the biblical idea of hope isn’t possible, it is certain.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
It is assured because the source of our hope is the promises of a never-changing, completely faithful God.
That is vital as we consider the grief and sadness that comes from the ever-changing circumstances of our lives and our world.
The sadness we feel on Christmas is rooted in the fact that we are in an ever-changing world.
Change isn’t always a bad thing, but when we see the empty chairs around the dinner table where our loved one’s once sat. When we think about the traditions that are now just memories. The reality of change sets in and grief over all that has changed is the result.
We lost my grandmother back in January.
Her house, where my first 22 or more Christmas’s were spent, is no longer her home.
Those Christmases at my grandma’s haven’t been there for years, but it hit me this year that those are just memories now, we can’t live those days again.
This is why HOPE is so significant and powerful.
Because, even though we live in an ever-changing world that leaves our heart grieving and sad, there is a source of HOPE where we can firmly plant our hearts.
LISTEN TO ME: Jesus doesn’t want us to swallow our sadness and fake Christmas joy; He wants us to turn to the hope found in our Wonderful Counselor.

Finding Hope in our Wonderful Counselor

In Hebrew “Wonderful Counselor” is the words “PEH-leh” and “YOW-Ites”
“PEH-leh” means beyond understanding. It’s a word you used when something was too wonderful for words.
“YOW-Ites” translates as counselor, but it can mean one who advises, guides, or plans from a place of authority.
Don’t think of a counselor as someone who gets paid to listen and offer helpful advice.
Isaiah is announcing the birth of a wonderful counselor, one who word can’t describe.
One who doesn’t just have good advise, but perfect wisdom.
One who knows us better than we know ourselves.
One with the power to fix the problems we face.
One who offers a hope that is not just possible, it is sure.
I want to share 3 reason Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor and how that identity brings hope in our sadness.

1) Jesus was born into our BROKENNESS and our PAIN.

The author of Hebrews helps us understand why Jesus can be such a help to us in our sadness and struggles.
Hebrews 4:15–16 ESV
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The word “priest” in this verse is used very much like “counselor”. One who represents and takes care of the people.
Jesus is wonderful counselor who is not unfamiliar with our problems.
He has felt the grief of loss, the lure of temptation, the depths of loneliness and abandonment, the pain of poverty, and so many other struggles we all face.
Later in his book, Isaiah prophesies again about the Messiah.
Isaiah 53:3 ESV
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Despised and rejected, felt sorrow and acquainted with grief...
This is what is so incredible about the Christian faith.
We do not worship a distant, inattentive, and unsympathetic God.
We worship a God who took on flesh, who was born into our grief, our temptations, our brokenness, and our pain.
So when we come to the “throne of grace” we can come confidently.
Not with a confidence we have earned, but with a confidence that the one we are coming to has indeed felt our pain and sympathizes with our struggles.
For those who are sad today and in this season.
Don’t hide behind a fake joy and don’t despair in hopelessness.
Turn instead to the one who knows your grief and sympathizes with your pain.
But He not only is one who relates to our pain...

2) Jesus came to bring HOPE to people who are LOST and IN NEED.

The Hebrews passage ends with “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The life of Jesus is a testament to the fact that Jesus not only sympathizes with our problems, He has answers and power to help.
In Luke 4, Jesus makes a declaration about the mission of His life and He quotes another prophesy from Isaiah about Himself.
Luke 4:18 ESV
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
It is quoted from Isaiah 61:1
Jesus took on flesh in order to do something about the brokenness of our world and the hopelessness of our lives.
The Words Jesus spoke were intended to guide us into truth and perfect wisdom. To help us to traverse our lives in the way of righteousness, for our good and God’s glory.
And the act of Jesus, His miracles, were always in response to problems people faced.
Jesus didn’t just do magic tricks.
He took on real problems, real pain, real struggle in all of His miracles.
Hunger, poverty, disease, brokenness, and even death.
Jesus didn’t come just to listen to all our problems, He came to fix what is broken in us and in our world.
There are some things you carried in today that Jesus isn’t going to change, but maybe what needs to change in your heart and your mind.
But the way we seek that change is by going to the throne of Grace with confidence that the one we are speaking to knows our struggles and has the power to help us in our time of need.
May we find hope this Christmas in our Wonderful Counselor who is knows our struggles and has answers.

3) The birth of Jesus is the birth of REAL HOPE.

Hallmark is known for their Christmas movies, they even had started a channel devoted to Hallmark movies.
They announced there would be 40 NEW movies this year.
You might not be a Hallmark Movie person, but the idea of the Hallmark movie is something we likely all desire.
They are usually pretty heartwarming stories that get us in all the feels by the end of the movie.
And most end pretty jolly and merrily.
Perhaps the reason we struggle to find hope and overcome the gloom this Christmas is that we are desiring the wrong vision of Hope.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Hallmark moments, but we just have to know they don’t last forever.
As we long for those Hallmark moments we see on TV or remember from our childhood, or maybe even last year, we have to acknowledge that real hope does not live there.
We should enjoy the times when we have them and revel in the memories that are so dear, but know that HOPE is not lost in Christmas traditions that have past or even in people that have past away.
What our hearts really long for is a hope that is never changing, always and forever kind of Hope.
A that was born on Christmas day when the King of King and Lord of Lords took on flesh, was born of a virgin, and breathed His first breath.
A savior who knows our pain, is acquainted with our grief, and was tempted and tried just as we are, yet did not sin.
A savior who bore our transgressions on the cross, paying the payment for our sin that we may have salvation and redemption through His blood.
A savior whom we can cast our cares onto knowing that He will comfort us in our grief and bring rest to our weary hearts.
Jesus doesn’t want us to hide our sadness or deny our grief this Christmas.
He desires that we acknowledge that our sadness finds it roots in a world that is broken and in need of a Savior.
And He desires that each of us turn to that Savior and find a hope that turns our sadness into rejoicing.
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