SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
NOVEMBER 29, 2020.
Title: Jesus: The Hope of Glory”
Text: Luke 2:19-20.
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:15-20.
The story is told of how a man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Eighteen to nothing. We’re behind.” “Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!” The little boy expressed hope in the midst of certain defeat.
Our text this morning presents Jesus as a child who would bring hope into the world. Just as God is love, righteousness, truth, life, and light, so also his nature is hope. His hopeful nature is illustrated by his plan of salvation. God sent Jesus Christ into the world. “God so loved the world… (John 3:16). Titus 2:11 puts it this way, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” Christ was born a Jew, but he was the Son of Man. While Jesus was born a Jew, he came to atone for all men. Through Jesus’ birth, all people receive eternal life. This is the reason why Christians celebrate his birth. It is a season that takes us into the birth of a Savior: Our hope of glory. The season of Advent is a time for reflection and confirmation. As we begin this season, let us consider some of the divine attributes that Jesus Christ brings to us: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. For the next four Sundays, we will hear messages about these attributes. This morning, let us learn together the nature of God, Hope. How can we develop this divine attribute of Jesus? God’s hope for glory is in the salvation of sinners and in their becoming like Jesus Christ in character. As long as Jesus is, there is hope.
Our text describes an event. The events of this night marked the fulfilling of a long-awaited hope in Israel. Let us go much deeper into the meaning of their hope, and I trust you will see that to the studious and faithful Jew, the coming of their Messiah in just the fashion that He came, could and should have been as much an end or a fulfilling of their hope, as His final coming in glory will be the end and fulfilling of our hope. This leaves us with the question, “What is hope?”
There are two words used in the New Testament that are translated as ‘hope’ in English. One has to do with trust; usually in a person. But the one most used in the New Testament has to do with an expectation, or an anticipation, and is usually associated with pleasure. The most obvious illustration that comes to my mind during this season, is a child on Christmas Eve. A child wants a PS5. The child can’t wait for Christmas morning. He does not sleep well. It is not anxiety but expectations of finding a PS5 among the gifts beautifully wrap under the Christmas tree. This is the sort of hope that I’m talking about today. It is not a yearning for an uncertain thing, but a confident anticipation and expectation of something that will indeed, come. So certain is the believer that the thing will eventually come, that he can almost see it, though it may be far off.
The next thing about hope that I want you to see, is that the kind of hope I’m talking about is always looking forward to the answer to, or the cure for, that which is not desirable. The hope, or anticipation, longs for the light that will dispel the darkness, the healing that will eliminate the pain, the safety at the end of a perilous journey; that thing or that event or that person that will finally come and make sense of it all.
The theme of hope is a welcome one when we are faced with some of the things that life can throw at us. When we are filled with fear (fear of contracting a virus or fear of an uncertain future), we need the hope of God’s presence, power and promises. When we are faced with pain or illness, we need the hope that God is aware of what is going on in our lives. When a bad and difficult situation goes on for a long time, we need the hope of knowing that God is able to overcome the evil that has besieged us in his time. When it seems the world has lost its mind and has become hostile to God and everything good, then we need the hope of knowing that God is still in control and is the ultimate victor. How do we do this?
This can be done by believing in Jesus. This can be done by trusting in Jesus. It is important to note that believing or hoping in Christ brings joy and peace. This has to do with our hope in the future. The future is as bright as the person and promises of God.
If you are a professed believer in Christ and in His shed blood for your salvation, placing your trust back into the passing, failing things of this world is a doubly dangerous thing to do. It is a hindrance to your continued fellowship with the Father, and it will eventually bring you disappointment and failure. Please remember, Christian, that the Bible says, “Whoever believes in HIM will not be disappointed. Let Him be your hope; the One in Whom you trust. He is entirely trustworthy.
In our text, the shepherds set very outstanding examples of hope. Looking at verse 15 of Luke 2 it reads, “And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us”. These shepherds were part of a generation that had read all the Messianic prophecies about Jesus coming. These shepherds wanted to see what Isaiah talked about. In prophesying of the Messiah’s arrival on the scene, Isaiah had said, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light” (9:2). So the anticipation of these lowly shepherds had been primed by centuries of expectation, and the sudden appearance of a host of angels, lighting up the night sky by their reflection of God’s own glory, and as one voice announcing Messiah’s birth was like throwing a lighted torch into an open powder keg.
Can you believe that these shepherds left their sheeps, not thinking about the danger of being eaten by lions? It would be like a surgeon abandoning the operating table. A soldier on the base perimeter leaving his post. It was something unimaginable. This was not disloyalty by these shepherds, but a reflection of the magnitude of the angel message. The magnitude of this message moves us to forget the worries of an uncertain future, the anxiety of how we could survive in this difficulty, and place our hope in God.
A magazine narrates a story how researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!
Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, how much greater should its effect be on our lives.
Hope cannot be forced. It is the product of faith and love. May the God of hope fill you all with peace, love, and joy in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. God bless you all.