Christ, Our Hope
The First Sunday in Advent - HOPE
The great Scottish preacher, Rev. John McNeill, always shared something from his childhood. On the nights he had band practice he had to walk a long distance home and his route led him through a forest. There were reports that wild animals and robbers were often seen in that area. Great fear would seize his heart as he made his way past the spooky-looking trees. He recalled, "One night it was especially dark, but I was aware that something or someone was moving slowing and quietly toward me. I was sure it was a robber. When a voice called out, its eerie tone struck my heart with fear. I thought I was finished. Then came a second call. This time I could hear the voice saying, 'John, is that you?' It was my father. He had known of my fear and had come out to meet me. In a split second darkness was driven away by a light my father lit in my heart. My fear and despair changed into hope.” My friends, you will appreciate with me that every single person in this world needs to hear a word of hope from our Father in heaven – a word that will bring light where it has become dark. Can we all appreciate how dark it has become in people's hearts? – a world pandemic took some over the edge when they decided to end their lives. There are some that say, “Covid-19 has blinded my eyes for the good things God still brings before us on a daily basis.” For many followers of Jesus morality issues has brought a dark cloud over everything they stand for. And then...it's not like those people, and perhaps we should include ourselves...want to be pessimistic. Things are really dark around us – we need the Light of Jesus to drive our darkness and fear. We need to hear His words of HOPE where there is so much despair.
There is something very precious we read in Luke 1: 30, “But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” Those were words not just Mary needed to hear, but all the people of her time. They had waited so long for the promise of the Messiah to be fulfilled. His birth was foretold for many generations and there were the faithful ones who 1 Never Let Go Of God’s Promise Of Hope. To them it was always a reminder when the sun brought light – the Sun of God’s righteousness will shine when His time has come into fulfillment. And now the time has come...Everlasting Hope became a realty when the angel Gabriel told Mary in verse 35, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” Mary never let go of God's promise like the rest of her people, but now this promise was going to be more to her than she could ever imagine. She was to give birth to the Saviour of the world. And in her song in the verses following our reading, she rejoices greatly about the fact that God, her Saviour, was mindful of her and that future generations would call her blessed. Have you ever waited on a promise of God and when it was fulfilled you didn't have words to express yourself? During Word War II two sisters in Poland, Lena and Amelia, were separated by the Germans. They were just teenagers...and as Amelia was led away, Lena said, “God will bring us back together again. I heard Him speak to me at night...'No matter what. I will bring you and your sister together again.'” After the war, both of them shared their story with people in their communities. And one day in the early 80's there was a knock at Lena's door and when she opened, there was a woman she didn't recognize. And then the woman said, “You were right. God kept His promise.” Immediately Lena knew it was Amelia. She was speechless...there after so many years, was her sister in front of her. Lena pulled her close to her and they embraced. No words could express Lena's emotions at the time. “God kept His promise”, was what must have come into Mary's mind and heart, as well as the people of her generation and all generations to come. Advent begins with Hope. The candle of hope reminds us that this promise was fulfilled at the birth of Jesus Christ. If you think about it, it was entirely appropriate for Jesus Christ, Who is the Hope of the world, to have come in the form of an infant, because babies are hope personified. They are pure potential. Their lives are all in the future. Is there a mother or father who hasn’t looked into the face of their newborn baby and wondered, “What will this little child accomplish – what will he or she become? - A doctor saving lives, a lawyer pursuing justice, an engineer or a scientist? Perhaps my child will make this world a better place.” My friends, there was only one Child Whose coming changed the cause of the world forever. His name was Jesus – He brought Hope that will never cease.
That brings us to a second truth from Luke 1: 26-38 – 2 The Hope In Christ Is Everlasting. The angel Gabriel told Mary in verse 33, “...and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” What a profound promise? Every single kingdom or dynasty on earth will come to an end, but not that of Jesus. We can rejoice in the fact that He is the Living Hope for generations of the past, generations of the present and generations to come. Yes, He is in control in the year 2020, because this year is known as 2020 AD – Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. In the year 2020 Jesus Christ reigns over a world plagued by Covid-19, He reigns over those who think that they rule the world. In the 80's the band, Tears for fears, had a song named, “Everybody wants to rule the world.” And you see, that's just the problem. Everybody will fail when they try to rule the world. It's only Jesus, the Hope of the world, Who can rule. Again Gabriel told Mary and all peoples on earth – “...and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” When we hear Gabriel’s word “forever” to Mary we have to think of more than just the horizons of this life. There is a future that will be fulfilled. Isn’t that what 2 men or angels in white clothes told the disciples when Jesus ascended into heaven – “This same Jesus, Who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” Acts 1: 11b. He will come back to establish His heavenly kingdom. Do we really have a comprehension that Hope cannot cease until that moment when we will see God face to face in His heavenly realms; that hope is the tool that Jesus brought us to go on our journey in life up to that moment in time when He will deliver us from this life? Yes, we have to be delivered from a world of imperfection and immortality. My dear friends, when you and I hear “Hope is a star” over and over again in the Advent season, we have to remind ourselves – the star of Bethlehem tells us of another coming, the Second coming. On this First Sunday of Advent, there is a reminder – “Put your hope in the Living Christ!”
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall