Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/30/14 Sermon - Hope Springs Eternal

“HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL”

1st Sunday of Advent – 2014

 

We are beginning the Advent Season and I decided we would take a break from studying the book of Mark and focus on the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

In a way, the celebration of the birth of Jesus is central to Mark’s theme of “heaven is near”.

 

Now the Advent Season is similar to the season of Lent, before Easter.

 

It is a time, we set aside, to get ready.

 

For many of us in the Western world, or at least in the microwave society we live in, where everything is supposed to arrive…..now,

taking four weeks to prepare for an event is foreign and not easily accomplished.

 

However, the purpose for setting aside time to get ready for Christmas, allows us to keep the Christ in Christmas, and keeps us focused on the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Especially for us who live in the United States.

According to what we see on television and hear from our government, it is commercialism that is keeping us together. If the shopping does not increase during the next four weeks, our economy will suffer and we will be back in a recession. If we listen to the world around us, there is no Christ in Christmas there is only the word “mas” m-a-s,  which in Spanish means “more” and that is what we are being asked to do, buy “mas”.

 

So for today, and the next three Sundays, we will be focusing on an aspect of Christmas that will prepare our hearts and souls to celebrate the Savior’s birth with new energy and devotion.

 

The Advent Wreath is a symbol which represents the journey to Christmas.

 

The wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches. The circle and the evergreens represent eternity.

 

On the wreath we have positioned four candles, one for each Sunday before Christmas and then one candle in the middle which will be lit on Christmas Eve. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.  

 

 

 

Today’s candle is purple, and is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

 

 Hope is a necessity. Without it, one finds it difficult to even get out of bed in the morning.

 

Today’s Scripture from Romans, which was written by the apostle Paul, gives us the purpose for the Scriptures. He wrote that the Scriptures in former days were written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

 

Paul also wrote in his letter to the Colossians, in Chapter 1, verse 26, 27 “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

 

I don’t know about you, but that is what allows me to get out of bed in the morning. “Christ in Me, the hope of glory”. And I will be the first to say, there is a great deal about this Christian thing that remains a mystery.

 

But when I read the Scriptures I discover there is a common thread that begins with Abraham, down to the root of Jesse, through the lineage of David, to Mary and Joseph and Jesus. And God has grafted onto that root the Gentiles, allowing everyone in this room the opportunity to be “in Christ” the “hope of glory”.

 

Paul is an example of God using the least likely person to be the most influential in spreading His story. If you remember, Paul started out as an overenthusiastic bigot. He arrogantly thought he knew what the Old Testament meant and in his interpretation, Jesus was a fraud.

Until…………. he met Jesus, face to face.

And from that day forward, God recruited Paul and instead of punishing him for all the believers Paul had previously killed, He made him His apostle.

 

God gave Paul, hope.

 

After encountering God and realizing that Jesus was God’s only begotten Son, and was the Messiah, all the Scriptures that Paul had memorized and interpreted, now had new meaning.

With Jesus in the picture, Paul, re-interpreted the passages and then spent the rest of his life making sure anyone around him, especially the Gentiles, understood them as well.

 

Paul had to change his entire belief system. I suspect it wasn’t easy. He wasn’t the only Jew who was having to change his entire belief system. The passage from Isaiah that was read today, describes the changes the Jewish nation would have to undertake.

 

Isaiah begins this passage with a stump.

Stumps are dead trees.

Nothing living any more.

 

Isaiah was describing the Jewish nation. Their relationship with God had become stagnant and lifeless; they performed their faith, by rote and ritual. They had made the law into convenient do’s and don’ts. God’s desire was to have a relationship with them, and for them to love God and each other. But they had turned away from that relationship and their mission.

 

By doing so they had become a nation that was unable to bring about anything. They had become as unmovable and stagnant as an old stump.

 

But God is faithful,

God keeps His promises and out of the root of this dead stump, God springs up hope eternal.

 

This shoot would be the Messiah, a Savior. These words of Isaiah should bring hope.

 

Just as the promise of a son was fulfilled with Abraham and Sarah even though they were way past the years of being able to conceive. God would fulfill this promise of a Messiah, a Savior. But I suspect the Jews that heard this probably had difficulty, just like Sarah, in accepting what Isaiah was saying.

 

The same problem arose for Paul when he was talking to the Roman Christians. They too were having difficulties with their traditions and their new way of life. You see, the Roman Christians had decided they would let go of the old traditions and they would concentrate on growing their way. But Paul reminds them that just because they were “in Christ” they were to hold on to the stump they were growing out of, because it was the foundation. The quote from Isaiah was chosen to remind them that it was not their job to decide who was in and who was out. They were to let go of their ideas of how they thought God works and just

Let God Work!

 

Such is the mystery of God.

 

We so desperately want to make God into a God we can understand,

a God who works the way we want God to work,

a God who punishes those we think should be punished and rewards those whom we think should be rewarded. Oh yeah, God should forgive, but of course it should be those we deem worthy of forgiveness.

We have this idea of what God should be like and when things don’t work out the way we think they should,

we question God.

 

It’s not easy to “Let Go” and “Let God”, because it means we may not be in control, and that can be scary. It is difficult to admit that we live in mystery.

 

And yet, if we keep reading in Isaiah, notice the way things become.

 

First, we notice that this shoot of Jesse will not judge by his eyes or his ears, but with righteousness. Righteousness and faithfulness will be his building blocks.

 

The wolf will live with the lamb.

The leopard will sleep with the goat.

Calf and lion will drink from the same trough, and a child will tend to them.

Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs will grow together.

The child will crawl over the rattlesnake’s dens, and a toddler will stick his hand down a hole of a snake.

Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain.

For the earth will be full of knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

 

So as Christians, where is our hope?

 

Our hope is based on the character of God. And God’s character doesn’t change, regardless of our circumstances.

 

I want you to dwell on that fact for a moment.

Our HOPE is based on the character of God. In the midst of everything that goes on around us, good or bad, God’s character remains steadfast. God is love. And He is in the business of taking the messes we create here on earth, or the messes that are given to us, whether we deserve them or not, and loves us through them. We are not here alone, God has given us His Holy Spirit and His Scriptures to guide us.

 

The Bible is now our tangible means of connecting with God, in our attempts to make sense of what occurs around us day to day. Jesus was our example. As a human, when things got tough, Jesus found his answers in Scripture, God’s Words. And when we are hopeless – God’s Word has the ability to make sense out of the seemingly senseless.

 

I’ve shared with you before about the time I lived with chronic headaches. For eight years, I woke up every day with a pain of pressure behind my eyes.

 

Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

 

There is a process here, and the process is not like a microwave but more like a crock pot. It takes time, and in the time of suffering we develop

Perseverance

Character

And then hope.

Let’s face it. We are living in a time of suffering. Heaven is not fully here yet. However, we are not left here without hope.

Paul continues on this theme in Romans 8, verse 18,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

…..

 Verses 24 & 25…”For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

 

I can’t take away all of the struggles and pains that come with life. It is a mystery as to how God really does what he does. However, because God is steadfast and faithful, it is certain that God is in our midst. Emmanuel, God with us. We are not meant to go this alone.

 

There is hope.

Praise God,

Hope springs eternal…………. peace.  

 

Let’s pray.

 

Dear God,

 

You are the God of hope. Regardless of where we are today, whether we are in struggles or peace, we can be assured that you are right here with us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, and help us to see that with your Spirit comes Hope, and hope will not disappoint us.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

BENEDICTION:

 

May the God of hope, fill you with joy, fill you with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!