Isaiah 61:1-7, Luke 1:39-56
December 14, 2014
As I mentioned last week, we’re taking these Advent themes slightly out of order. Mr. Darryl wanted to start Advent with Joy! And again, that’s great! We should have Joy all season long! But it does mean that I have to backtrack slightly. Because I want us to think today about Hope, the hope we can have – this time of year, and always – because of the hope this event we celebrate brings us.
I did talk briefly about Hope last week. If you remember, I said how all these themes work together. You can’t have Peace without having Hope, and you can’t have Joy without having Peace.
Sometimes we try to force ourselves to have those things. We try to “force” ourselves to have Joy. We try to “choose” Joy. And you know I’m always a big one for making choices, and for being “intentional” in our faith! But when we don’t have Peace, when our lives are in turmoil, Joy seems kind of “hollow,” doesn’t it? Well the same goes for Peace and Hope. If we try to have the Peace we talked about last week, if we simply try to “be calm,” but we have no Hope, the same thing happens.
So, in order to have all of those things – Peace, Joy, and Love, we need to start by knowing the Hope this season brings. We need to see the Hope this event brought the world two millennia ago, or the whole sequence of those “themes of Advent” comes unraveled rather quickly.
So then, do you have Hope? Sometimes we lose Hope, don’t we? Hope is a huge part of our faith. The traditional symbol of Hope is the anchor. That makes me think of one of my favorite hymns, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.” One of the verses of that hymn says, “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” I love that!
But have you ever lost hope? I know there have been times I have! At times that darkness tries to come back into our lives, doesn’t it? At times that darkness threatens to veil “his lovely face.” Notice, it doesn’t remove the promise! It doesn’t negate the Grace! I just seems like it does! The anchor seems like it’s not as secure. And sometimes, like a sailor, we need to tug on that chain and make sure it’s still holding.
There are a lot of hopeless people in this world. Yes, there are hurting people, people who are going through pain, loss, illness, oppression, and shame. But worse than that, worse than people who are hurting, are people who have lost hope! They have those difficulties, and to them the future is bleak. There seems to be no end to their troubles. They can see no light at the end of the dark tunnel. That’s hopelessness! Have you ever felt that?
Hopelessness hurts our ability to cope with problems. (Or with life in general, for that matter!) When the future looks bleak, so does the present. If you’re going through tough times, and you know you have better days ahead, you can make it through, can’t you? But if you don’t know there will be better days, if you have no Hope, it seems like “things will always be this way!” Then the door is open to despair. Isn’t that true? (Feel free to disagree at any time!)
One of the things I’ve often said to people who are going through rough times like that is “It’s not always going to be like this!” Because that’s what they’re often feeling. They feel like there’s no way out of their situation. They feel like “It’s always going to be like this!” And I try to remind them – to assure them – that it’s not. Of course the down side of that, (the part I try not to emphasize!) is that things could get worse! But when we feel like things will never change, we’re stuck in a rut. And it’s a very depressing rut!
Now let me tell you, if we think we in our age have a corner on that, we’d be wrong! People of every age had those dark times! Think about the Dark Ages. Do you think they called them the “Dark Ages” because they hadn’t invented the light bulb yet? “The Dark Ages” was that period of time after the fall of the Roman Empire, when the light of “classic civilization” was extinguished – some say until the Renaissance! That’s nearly a thousand years!! Ironically, some would argue that living under the Roman Empire was a time of hopelessness. But after Rome fell, that government, which at least gave order to the world, was gone. And life became far worse for many people than it was under Rome!
Well, it was at the height of that empire, that the Christmas story took place. And those people too were under oppression. They too had a certain level of hopelessness. Yes, they had their prophecies. Yes, they knew a Messiah, a Savior was coming. But it had been many centuries. And I’m sure they were beginning to lose hope in those ancient promises. And it was on them, that hope dawned! The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!” Do you see? That “Great Light” dawned on them – and all of us!
That’s our Hope! And we need to cling to that Hope – the Hope of this story. We need to take Hope in the Christmas story, not just because it’s a nice birthday story, with a nice little baby, but because of the love of God that is represented in it. We need to know that he is the promised Savior, and that he represents – he is – the love of God that surrounds us every day of our lives! He is our anchor! He is our great light! When we are walking in darkness, he is our light!
So, do you know that Hope this Advent season? It’s the “anchor” of all the other themes. Can you put yourself in this story, where people were anticipating something amazing? Can you see the light they saw? That’s how we can have the Peace in this season. That’s how we can have the Joy! Because “In every high and stormy gale, our anchor holds within the veil. On Christ, the solid Rock, we stand…”
Eternal God, we thank you for the Hope we have in Jesus Christ, the Hope we have in your love, which you have lavished upon us. Help us in this season of Hope to know that nothing can ever separate us from that love, and that no matter what, you are with us. We thank you and we praise you, and we pray in the name of Jesus, our Hope, Amen!