Hope - A Christmas Eve Meditation
Topic: Hope Passage: Isaiah 9:2–9:2
Hope. The word has been hijacked by our culture. It is used in a way that means nothing more than wishful thinking. The child says, "I hope it snows today." The sports fan says, "I hope my team wins it all." The wife in the middle of a tough marriage says, "I hope my marriage doesn't disintegrate."
But we need more than that. Life can be really hard. Some here have experienced painful loss this past year. Most have over the last five years and this time of year it surfaces. What we need is a vision of a big God who gives us a big hope! Hope is the joyful expectation of future good; eternal good - because of the God of hope! So hope is not a shallow wishful thinking; it has deep roots. Hope is not a weak sentimentalism. It is powerful.
Hope isn't temporary. It has a history, which reaches back to the beginning of time and forward into eternity. Hope invaded earth when Christ was born, but it didn't start there.
In fact, hope was promised thousands of years before Christ was born. Way back at the beginning of time. Way back in the Garden of Eden. Remember, Adam and Eve disobeyed God; they disbelieved in his goodness, listened to the serpent and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. And ever since sin, death, and the curse has cast their dark shadow over the earth. But there was a promise made in the garden after this catastrophic event. God spoke this word to the serpent,
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise [crush] your head, and you shall bruise his heel. ~ Genesis 3:15
God pledged a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent. Hope was promised.
Then the promise of this hope was awaited for thousands of years. This promise made way back in the garden was craved for and longed for. And there were whispers throughout, echoing the promise made centuries before. We heard from Isaiah 7 and 9. But check out Micah 5:
But you, O Bethlehem, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth from me one who is the be ruler of Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. ~ Micah 5:2,4
And the saints of old saw these scriptures and hoped in them, longing for their fulfillment.
And then it happened! In the fullness of time. At just the right moment, according to God, hope came down on the first Christmas when God to Son entered his creation. The eternal God who created everything came down by entering his creation as one of us in order to walk in our shoes. The writer of Hebrews said, "He was made like us in every respect." The apostle John said, "The word [God] became flesh and dwelt among us." No wonder, God the Father sent his angels to put on a worship concert for a group of shepherds at his birth.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" ~ Luke 2:8-14
The first Christmas was the advent of eternal hope. It was like the sun was beginning to dawn upon the earth after a long, languishing night. But Christ came on a mission to accomplish our eternal hope. Jesus himself said that he came "to seek and save that which was lost." He said he came, "to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." The baby born in a manger would grow to be a man who lived perfectly, died in the place of sinners and rose again. His last words on the cross were, "it is finished." What was finished? Salvation was achieved for everyone who trusts in him. Our eternal hope secured. The ransom payment for our redemption was paid in full. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the point of Christmas.
But the completion of our hope is still future. Our hope will be consummated in the future. In fact, the apostle Paul says, "Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees." So what we hope for is still future for us, but is based on the promise of Genesis 3, prophecies fulfilled, birth of Jesus, and the accomplishment of his death and resurrection. So what do we still hope for? Our blessed hope is the return of Christ! In Lord of the Rings Sam Gamgee asks Galdlalf, "Is everything sad going to come untrue?" When Jesus comes again, for the Christian, everything sad is going to come untrue. At the first coming of Jesus, hope dawned on the earth. At the second coming, what we most deeply and truly hope for will become fully REAL. It will no longer be hoped for. It will be here! And everything sad is going to come untrue. Every tear shed now will increase your joy then. Every loss experienced now will increase your gain then. Every disappointment now will increase our contentment then. Every ache and longing now will increase your satisfaction then.
But we live in this time we call "now". But what about now? This hope that is still out before us is powerful! And this awesome expectation of future can reach into the now and empower us for living now! 1 Peter calls it a living hope for "lively hope". And it comes through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus said before he left his disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. I will give you another Helper/Comforter (depending on bible version). The Holy Spirit makes Colossians 1:27 a living reality. So hope promised… hope longed for and prophesied… hope dawning on earth, hope accomplished, hope consummated in the future and hope applied now by the Holy Spirit.
When all seems lost, dear saint of God
Recall the treasured news
Of how God broke into the world
To walk within our shoes
When Adam fell both sin and death
Covered the world like night
Yet in the garden, God promised a Man
Who would come and put things right
For so long the world yearned and craved
God’s pledge to crush the snake
While His hidden plan rolled along
God would not his word forsake
When the fullness of time had come
Though God’s Son was born obscure
The sun awoke, the king was born
Good news had dawned for sure
This God-man sent from heaven
With a mission to complete
He lived and died and rose again
Our redemption to achieve
And now this Christ, He reigns on high
But surely will come once more
To gather his chosen to Himself
And all that’s wrong restore
So weary saint rejoice in God!
Though in this life we groan
Christ dwells in us now by his Spirit
To comfort and cheer His own
Lift your eyes today by faith to see
Your Savior, Shepherd, King
And may your hope shine ever brighter
Till fullness of grace He brings