Page 337 was a Sunday and I was up early to spend time with God letting the sermon I had prepared continue to soak in and simmer. I always consider it a sacred privilege to be able to preach and never want to take those opportunities for granted. The church I preached at this morning is following a traditional Advent approach to the Christmas season, so this morning’s sermon was focused on hope. The hope of the Bible is nothing like my childhood hope every winter morning that it would snow and there would be no school. That hope was just wishful thinking with no real reason to expect it would happen. The hope represented by the Christmas season is a confident expectation that God will keep His promises — an expectation fortified by a history of God always keeping His promises. The sermon I shared this morning was titled “The Advent of HOPE” as we looked at four characteristics of hope that arrived with Jesus and can be fulfilled in our life through Jesus, they are as follows:
- The advent of Healing: Preparing for the arrival of Christmas is wrapped around an arrival of healing. When John was in prison he sent some of his followers to ask Jesus if He was the one who was to come or if they should expect someone else. This is what Jesus told them to tell John, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” The response of Jesus may seem cryptic, but John understood that Jesus was making it clear that He was the one. But the healing Jesus came to bring was much greater than any physical improvement — He came to bring a complete healing of all the hurt and destruction brought on ourselves by our sin. The physical healing was done out of compassion but much of the time, according to His words, it was done to “show that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sin” — a much greater healing needed by mankind. Jesus said that it is not the healthy that needs a physician but the sick and there is no one sicker than any of us who remain in our sin.
- The advent of Opportunity: The arrival of Christmas also brought with it an opportunity that many previous generations had longed for. The Bible teaches about the “great mystery” that has been revealed through Jesus — Christ in us, the hope of glory. The arrival of Jesus on earth brought with it an opportunity to worship God in a way that was more personal — a way of Spirit and truth. The shepherds took advantage of that opportunity, as did a group of Magi from the east. Yet many who should have known better — the scribes, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, and so many who had been taught about God all their lives — chose not to take advantage of the opportunity to get to know God up close and personal. Christmas is a reminder that we still have that opportunity to draw near to God because He first drew near to us.
- The advent of Purpose: Christmas brings with it a message of purpose. We must never forget that the birth of Jesus here on earth was not really about us having an endearing story of a baby in a manger to tell our children and grandchildren on Christmas Eve. Jesus came with a purpose, and that purpose was to save people from their sins. As we celebrate Christmas, we are reminded not only of His purpose but of the purpose to which we are called. The Bibles says that we “should set apart Christ as Lord in our life, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.” Our purpose is to use the gifts, abilities, and talents that God has given us, and use them to share the hope of Jesus with the people around us. God’s desire that “none should perish, but all would come to repentance” ought to become our purpose as we share the good news with gentleness and respect.
- The advent of Eternity: As Jesus arrived on earth, he revealed and began to usher in the kingdom of God. By definition, eternity has no beginning and no end — so in that sense, eternal life is not something that we look forward to but something that we already have in Christ. Much of the teaching of Jesus centered around the kingdom of heaven. And while we will not understand its fullness until Jesus returns, the purpose of Jesus teaching about His kingdom was so we would know how to live like kingdom citizens now. When Jesus taught, “All who are weary, come to me and I will give you rest.”, the words were meant to welcome people to live under His authority and be citizens of an eternal kingdom. Yes, we are on a journey to a place that Jesus has gone to “to prepare a place” for us, but we are part of that kingdom even now as God has placed His eternal Spirit within us. Since eternal life has arrived in us through Christ, we ought to practice and grow in the things of eternity — the things of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.
After the church service we had lunch on the way home and then spent a quiet afternoon going through the photos from Saturday. When evening came we went to dinner with some friends and then I began the writing of today’s page before getting drawn into some Christmas movies on TV. The movies won, so I’m finishing up the writing the next morning. 🙂 Today’s photo is of the “supermoon” that rose in the night sky. Its nearness brings with it an appearance of larger size and brighter light. Because it “came near”, many people were out last night looking at it and taking photos — they didn’t want to miss it. Through the arrival of Christ that we celebrate at Christmas time, God came near to us and we would do well not to miss it.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- I am thankful when God gives me opportunities to preach — I ought to be thankful for all opportunities to share His Word and His love.
- Hope that can transform a life has to be more than just wishful thinking.
- My hope in Christ is made sure by a God who always keeps His promises.
- There is no healing more necessary that to be made right with God.
- God has given a great opportunity to all mankind — that we may draw near to Him because He first drew near to us.
- As God’s children, you and I have great purpose. Part of that purpose is to live and talk in such a way that He is made known in our life.
- In Christ, eternity with God is already taking place in our life. We would do well to live with an awareness of His presence.
- God drew near to mankind by sending His Son, Jesus, to live and walk among us. Today He draws near to mankind by sending His Spirit to live and walk among people through us.