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The Christian New Year  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Hope is understanding that things are not as they should be or could be and prayerfully taking action to make them better.

I talked a big joyful sermon last week about finding peace and things looking better in the future. Last week, I prayed that we could all find peace in the present and pause in that peaceful moment. It is the first thing we must do before we can find hope. Hope is what I want to talk about today.
Funny thing is, I too had to reconnect with God at a peaceful level before I could find hope in the situation I was in. Last Monday evening, before tucking the kids in bed, Savannah began to complain about her throat hurting. So, with this virus going around I thought, oh no! She woke up the next morning with a slight fever and it was a snow day. So, I already had to cancel something off of my calendar that I was looking forward to, which was attending the Prime Timer Christmas party. Then I also hear word that with all that is going on, we need to cancel the Youth Fundraiser all together. I had to find peace in a new way, let alone find hope. But, as I said last week, it is not where we find peace but in whom. It is also not where you can find hope, but in whom you find hope.
Pray and read Isaiah 64:1-12
Isaiah 64:1–12 NRSV
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. After all this, will you restrain yourself, O Lord? Will you keep silent, and punish us so severely?

We all hope that Jesus will come soon. Let us not forget that he already has!

The first verse is an expressed hope that the Messiah would come and remedy God’s people of the troubles they are facing. They want the Messiah to come and shake the world quite literally to the point that no one can deny that God is all powerful and in control. They are asking that God show up in a mighty way to where God’s adversaries are silenced. Hope is expressed when Isaiah says that God has done this before, there is evidence of God’s providence for His people. Isaiah says confidently that God shows up for those who are righteous, doing right in the sight of God. Isaiah also says that God is wrathful and brings vengeance upon those who sin and cause harm. Sometimes, what we see as God’s wrath is a cleansing of sins, a purification of those who are apart of God’s creation. So if you repent of your sins, God will restore you, and make you into who He created you to be.
Isaiah also goes on to cry out to God, begging God to rescue them from the troubles they are experiencing. Some how I have prayerfully chosen this passage to preach on hope. I promise there is a good reason, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Hope is definitely not just lamenting on how bad things are in the present.

If you just read the passage, you may think that Isaiah is just lamenting on the terrible position that the Israelite children have gotten themselves into. However, a deep study of this passage and the message and prophesy of Isaiah reveals that Isaiah is praying to God here for redemption. This is not only a prayer but also prophesy of the coming redemption by our God in the birth of our Savior. When we pray, we should be expressing the same kind of hope. We see how bad things are around us, but we pray to our God because we have faith that God will redeem us and rescue us from our suffering in this present age. However, we do live in a fallen world so our prayers should not just be for us, but for all of God’s creation.

Hope is also not just thinking that everything will be okay and not see what is going on presently.

Sometimes we prefer to just look forward to Christ returning and not think about the suffering that is going on in the world. This doesn’t do any good either. I have said it before, but there are terrible things going on in the world that is well beyond what you see in the news or read in other media outlets. There is an evil reality that would give you nightmares for weeks. We too are in a desert wilderness. There is a spiritual battle that is only getting harder until Christ returns to vanquish it from the earth. Yet, as the children of God, we still must have faith that we live in God’s kingdom that is already here with us and is to come.

Hope is understanding that things are not as they should be or could be and prayerfully taking action to make them better.

But understand that the way you personally want things is not always the way others see things are even the will of God. You are not always right. Things are not ever the same as they were yesterday.
There are two responses that I see when someone responds to things going wrong. Some people respond negatively and lash out in their grief or anger. They may demand that things return to what they perceived as normal. However, those demands are rarely heard the way they want to be heard. To others it seems as though they do not have hope at all.
The other response is more for the positive. To actively have hope, one sees the wrong that is happening and seeks to counteract it with a positive response. Instead of demanding others do what they want them to do, they instead do what they can to bring hope to others.
One example of this is the Free Hugs Guy. There have been Racial Protests going on for years. This year, they have seem to gotten worse, yet this isn’t the first time they have happened in our urban areas. This wonderful hope-fulled individual named Ken E. Nwadike first showed up at the Boston Marathon in 2014. The year before there was a terrorist attack that happened at the marathon. He showed up with signs that said “Free Hugs” and a message of hope and peace for the participants. Since then, he has showed up at many protest from political to racial protest. His message of love is always first and foremost. So much in fact that some complained when he rallied a team together to clean up a Target store that was severely hit by riots and protests over the summer. He stated that he understood the pain and anger of those protesting but also understood the pain and devastation from employees of the store and other business owners that are impacted in an already troubling economy due to the pandemic. His main goal then and always has been is to show love in all circumstances, to all sides and to everyone even those with whom he disagrees. We can learn a lot about hope from this wonderful human being.
The question isn’t really if you have hope. Most importantly, how do you express hope? Do you pray for peace, for joy and for love? Do you seek to express hope and love to others? Or do you simply lament that things are not right? Do you try to find new or maybe different ways to offer Christ when it seems that this world is trying to stop you? Do you smile and speak words of encouragement when others can’t find such words on their own? Do you pray for others to find forgiveness, grace, or joy? Or do you only pray for things to be the way you see fit? When was the last time you simply prayed, “God help me to give hope to others.”
In the Name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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