It is very interesting all of the feelings that the Christmas season brings up.
It certainly brings up feelings of Nostalgia as we find ourselves recollecting christmas’s from our childhoods.
These memories may include people who are no longer living whether, it’s parents, grandparents aunts uncles.
Christmas at it’s cultural best should bring out happy feelings as we take a few weeks to spread and receive generosity and good cheer.
Christmas at it’s worst brings out feelings of pain or loneliness, it brings crammed parking lots and spending money on things we often don’t need.
And christmas certainly brings with it exhaustion as we all all scurry from the mall to a party back to the mall to another party as we race to christmas day.
You hear a lot of talk about the true meaning of Christmas which is usually a combination of scripture, Charles Dickens and humanistic thinking.
I stopped by the Hallmrark website to take a look at what messages are being sent out this year, some of them include:
If you’re happy and you know it thank an elf
Wishing you a little magic
Wishing you flurries of holiday fun
Mixed in with
Peace and Joy
Go tell it on the mountain.
So the big question is does Christmas have a true meaning? Or is it just whatever we want it to be for us.
We believe that Christmas has a deeper meaning than consumerism and parties, santa and elves.
We know it’s about Jesus.
Jesus’ story is our story.
You can’t read his words or consider his actions without taking a long look at your own life.
So we are going to spend the next 5 weeks in the Christmas story.
We are going to remind ourselves of the meaning of Christmas and consider how the birth of Jesus impacts our lives.
As we have already heard Advent means expectation or anticipation.
Today you’re going to hear about hope which ties very closely into expectation and anticipation.
Without hope we can’t expect or anticipate. Hope is the fuel of expectation.
Without hope we can’t look forward to a better day.
When we talk about hope, especially during the christmas season we are talking about the hope in the messiah for those who are living today we live with the expecting hope that he will return again ushering in the fullness of his kingdom.
And for those who lived before Jesus they had the same hopes they just thought they would look different than a poor carpenter from Jesus.
They hoped for a the messiah who was prophesied in scripture who would come and take his thrown becoming king and saving Israel from the oppression of their enemies.
So this morning I want to look at hope at two expressions of hope, I want to look at hope before And after the birth of Christ.
Hope before The birth of Christ.
We obviously don’t have time to begin digging into the layer upon layer of Jewish history to see why hope was something that was very much a part of the Jewish fabric.
So i will simply say this.
There are three main reasons why a messiah was so deeply hoped for.
1.God is lord of heaven and Earth, the Jews wanted to see this again.
2.There was political stress. Is real was constantly being attacked and at the time of Jesus Israel was under Roman Rule.
3.There was social stress. Whenever Israel was under the rule of someone other than a good king of god himself they were treated terribly and due to heavy taxation they were extremely poor.
The jews believed that they were living in the story that had an eventual end. They believed that God was a covenant keeping God and he would redeem them from their struggles.
So at the time of Jesus' birth Israel was living with the anticipation of being rescued by a messiah who would overthrow Rome, overthrow King Herod, Establish his Kingdom ushering in peace, bringing care and provision and bringing and end to poverty for the people as a shepherd for his sheep.
This hope wasn’t just wishful thinking, it was prophesied through out the O.T.
Lets look at a couple of those prophesies.
Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
These are the words swirling around in the minds of the Israelites as they experience persecution and terrible suffering and oppression from the roman government.
And on top of that.
They are under Roman Rule and oppressed by caesar.
And if the political and social problems weren't enough Caesar has determined that he is in fact divine and worthy of worship.
An Inscription found on a building dated 9 B.C.
The most divine Caesar… who should be considered equal to the beginning of all things… for when everything was falling (into disorder) and tending toward dissolution, he restored it and once more gave the world a new aura, Caeser… the common good fortune of all… the beginning of life and vitality… All the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of divine Caesar as the beginning of the year… Whereas providence, which has regulated our whole existence… has brought our life to the climax of perfection in given to us (the emperor) Augustus, whom it (providence) filled with strength for the welfare of men, and who being sent to us and our descendants as saviour, has put an end to war and has set all things in order, and having become god manifest, Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times.. and surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him… and whereas, finally the birthday of the god (Augustus) has been for the whole world the beginning of the good news (euaggelion) concerning him (therefore let a new era begin from his birth).
~ Richard A. Horsley Jesus and Empire Pg. 23-24
So as you can see if the oppressive political system and social reality the jews were living in was bad enough they also had a tyrannical mad man claiming he was the messiah, the king the world needed and had been waiting for.
So while Israel is suffering, Rome is flourishing and Caesar is becoming divine God begins the next chapter, the hope of man would soon be satisfied.
In a way no one expects the Messiah is planted within the womb of a faithful young lady named Mary and in just a little while Jesus will be born and hope will be both realized and made new.
Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
Now I don’t know about you but when I read the words the angels announced to the shepherds that night and I see how strikingly similar they are to the words said about Caesar you quickly realize that Jesus coming to earth was more than just silent night and little town of Bethlehem.
Caesar Augustus now had some competition.
Jesus didn’t just show up and everything was well.
Jesus came to confront the rulers and the kingdoms of this world.
If you want a different way to think about Christmas than Charlie Brown, Charles Dickens and Hallmark consider this:
The birth of Christ gave every single person a choice.
Man could now choose between Caesar or Jesus.
Hope after his birth for Today and Tomorrow
And this choice extends all the way to us today.
We still choose between Jesus and Caesar.
The difference is Caesar has some new names, they are:Comfort
Wealth, Power, Beauty, Sexuality, Happiness, Drugs, Alcohol
And when we choose Jesus we choose to believe his message which is that he's returning again.
I think a couple of the best verses in all of the bible on hope and it’s function for those of us living in anticipation of Christ’s second coming are found in Titus 2
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
What we learn from this verse is that hope fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus becomes an action word.
Hope now requires action.
God’s salvation and grace train us to standup to the kings and kingdoms of our world and call them out for what they are. Empty and weak.
Hope isn’t just meek and quiet.
Hope gets off it’s butt and stands up to the passions of this world.
Really grasping the Hope of Jesus will make us different.
I suppose to look at christmas and really the birth of Jesus is to ask ourselves which group do we side with? Passion of the world or passion for the kingdom.
Another way to ask this question is are we fans of Jesus or are we disciples of Jesus?
What’s the difference?
Fans are people who like some of the teachings of Jesus and may even identify themselves as christians and yet pick and choose which of Jesus’ lessons they follow.
Disciples take the full authority of scripture believing it all and doing their best through the strength of the Holy Spirt to follow them.
For fans there is little proof that they are shaped by the rods and actions of Christ.
For Disciples there is.
And being a person of hope and resiliency, living in the expectation and anticipation of the return of Jesus and the fullness of his kingdom is one of those proofs.
If Jesus is your hope, if you are a hopeful person it invites you live a different life.
Our hope is built on the fact that Jesus came and that Jesus is coming again, our hope is in the fact that the kingdom of God is at hand and coming in fullness.
We live with hope because our messiah conquered death and through him we will too.
We have hope because we know that we will one day see Jesus to face in the fullness of his kingdom and as revelation 21 promises
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
We wait in eager expectation.