The Hope in Christ
Ephesians 2: 1-10
The first Sunday in Advent – HOPE
Joe Bailey in his book "A View From a Hearse" tells of the time his son died of cancer. He had returned to the clinic to thank them for their kindness and care of his son. As he spoke to the receptionist, she pointed to a woman whose son was playing quietly with toys in the waiting area. "He has the same cancer your son had", she said. "Why don’t you go over and see if you can talk with her?" Bailey went reluctantly over to sit next to the woman and they whispered just out of hearing of the boy. "It must be hard bringing him in for the treatments", he said. It was more a statement than a question. "Hard", she turned with anguish in her eyes. “I die every time I have to bring him in. What makes it worse is that I know it’s not going to stop the cancer and that he’s going to die." Bailey responded quietly, "I buried my boy just yesterday, and I’ve only come today to thank the doctors and nurses for their kindness. I know what you’re feeling but I also know that there is a better life for my son now. That realization came through the journey we were on with Jesus, Who gave us hope above our comprehension." That is the essence of the story of Christmas – God gave His Son, a little baby in a manger, outside in the cold because the world hasn't made room for Him. But the world didn't realize and in many ways still doesn't realize that the baby was meant to bring hope to the world where despair was and is the only reality.
Today we enter the Season of Advent. As some of you will know the word Advent comes from the Latin language and means coming. Just like the people before Jesus waited for His coming, we again in the spirit wait in anticipation for His coming. We will focus on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love as we wait and prepare ourselves to go to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. From Ephesians 2: 1-10 we want to focus this morning on the theme, “The Hope In Christ.”
First the apostle Paul tells us, This Is What God Is Like. We find a wonderful expression here in verse 4, “But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy...” Can we just fathom what God is like? Some say He is the God from the Old Testament Who punished His people in the wilderness so many times. He made them walk and walk in circles for 40 years. Can you imagine the murmuring of the children of Israel and their complaints to Moses, “See what God is doing to us”? He was seen as the God Who had sent prophet after prophet to His people to announce their punishment. The thought in many hearts must have been, “We just came from exile. Not again! We're not perfect. Is God not the God Who can forgive us?” And then later in time many wrote about what God is like. It was Aristotle who said, “God is an unmovable mover.” By that Aristotle wanted to say, “God can play with a person's life to His liking. No one will ever stop Him.” What is God like to you? Again, Paul used the words “great love” to say what God is like. When you look in the manger and you see the Saviour of the world, then you will know what God is like. Despite generations and generations of people who disappointed God and angered Him He never withdrew His promise of Isaiah 9: 6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Yes, great love equals Jesus, Who was torn away from His Father's heart. And the Father had proven to the world – “What I am like is that no one should perish, but have eternal life.”
From Ephesians 2: 6&7 the hope of Advent tells us that God Has Given Us The Gift Of Heaven. Paul says “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Christmas means that Christ came to give all those who would believe in Him the gift of heaven. At this point it's still wrapped. But the package has our name on it. We know what awaits us. It's ours. We would never have received the gift if it wasn't for Jesus coming to this world. Can we just rejoice in that hope my friends? Above brokenness and turmoil there is a place called heaven. No, heaven is not a place on earth as Belinda Carlisle sang in the 80's. For that this world has too much hatred, division and destruction. No, the gift of eternal life is awaiting us where we will be seated next to Christ. Do you live with that vision? Do you remind yourself – everything here will pass and we will be with Christ, Our Hope in Heaven? Let's focus on Him. Let's put Him at the top of the list at Christmas. We have a Living Hope. His name is Jesus. Let's thank God for Him.