The Hope of Christmas
On November 21, 1943, Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote a letter to his fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, while Hitler imprisoned him during World War II. In the letter, he talked about a spiritual lesson he was learning from his life as a prisoner. He wrote:
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of Advent.”
Our freedom and our hope have come because of Christ
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, 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.
It is always at this time of year that we are especially faced with the world’s hostility to Christ and his coming. People are afraid to say Merry Christmas, afraid to celebrate it in the stores even though the reason the stores make so much is because of Christmas. Schools and government offices close down but the fear of mentioning Christmas is paralyzing. However, this administration, love it or hate it, does not possess the same fears about celebrating Christmas as past ones.
But our hope does not rest on the way the culture seems to be drifting — good or bad. Our hope is in something quite different. There are at least three areas from which our hope springs which I want us to look at today.
1) We have hope because of who we are. Who are we?
We are the people of God.
– He has created us with his own hands.
– He has redeemed us with the blood of his own Son.
– He has raised Christ from the grave and promised that we will follow in like manner.
– He is preparing us a place in his kingdom.
We are the children of God. We are the redeemed. We are the heirs of a coming kingdom. This is our origin, our present reality and our inheritance. What could be better?
We should not be angry at those who will not allow a simple greeting like “Merry Christmas!” We are marching to a different Drummer in a different parade. We really don’t need to go down Main Street.
– We should pity those who do not have this hope.
– We should pray for them with genuine concern.
I keep trying to figure out what people do when they do not believe in God. In what do they place their hope? The truth is they have no hope. If this material world is all there is, then there is nothing transcendent or beyond themselves on which they can place their trust and hope. And all that is left is their own ingenuity, strength and success.
That might keep you for awhile, but what happens when all those things in which you have placed your trust and hope fail? Success and strength come to an end. There is only an empty void without God. If you have placed all of your hope in your abilities, and your abilities fail, then you are going to have to figure out who you are all over again.
-If you believe this whole world happened by chance, then chance is all you can hope for.
– If you believe this world is the result of a cosmic accident, then the best you can hope for is something accidental.
– If existence does not have meaning, then the best you can hope for is a meaningless existence.
– If there was no God in the beginning, then the best you can hope for is a godless future.
But, thank God, we have a sure and certain hope that is grounded in reality — the reality of God and life itself.
Our lives began with God and will end with God. Jeremiah said,
The Lord gave me this message: 5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
Isaiah the prophet said, Isaiah 49:1
The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.
The apostle Paul wrote about…Galatians 1:15
“But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace….”
The point is, if that was true for them, it is also true for you. In fact, one more thing… Ephesians 1:3-6
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.
God knew you before you were born — even before the world was created. He set you apart to belong to him. He called you and knew you by name. He created you to belong to him that you might know him and live with him forever. This is who you are.
God says this about you through Peter…1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
2) We have hope because of whose we are.
The only way that we can have hope in who we are, is because of Whose we are.
God is our father and we are his children. He has…. ransomed, restored, raised us. It is all about him.
– We have confidence because our confidence is in him.
– We have hope because we know that God knows what is going on in our lives.
– We have courage to face the future because he is in control of all of existence, and he will overcome all the problems that evil has brought into our lives. God will overcome this and make us victorious in the process.
Because of who God is, we know that something good is going to happen….. Something is on the horizon…. Something is growing…. Something is happening because there is…. Someone behind the scenes making it happen. We are not sure what it is going to look like, but we know it is going to be wonderful. It has already begun in us, and one day it will be completed. Paul put it this way he was
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
It is in knowing whose we are that we are able to redirect our confidence from ourselves, our efforts and our abilities to something which is lasting.
We are able to hope because we are able to trust God. We no longer have to be in control. We can let go and let God.
It is important to understand that hoping is not wishing. Wishing is something that those who do not have God do. At one time that is where we were, for as the Bible says… Ephesians 2:12
In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.
– To hope is to give up control and give the control to God.
– It replaces confidence in ourselves to confidence in God.
– It is not wishing, for wishing keeps things within the bounds of our own imaginations. Hope is open-ended — an expectation that God is going to do something greater than we could have ever dreamed.
Wishing is fantasy, hope is based in a grand reality — the person and character of a loving, ever imaginative God who always has our best in mind. Here is how the apostle Paul put it…2 Corinthians 1:20-22
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
We have wonderful hope because we have a wonderful God who will never fail us. Paul writes to young Timothy….2 Timothy 2:13
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.
We are hopeful because of whose we are.
3) We have hope because of where we are.
Where do you live? If you thought of your physical address, or the name of your state, you have missed the point.
-If you belong to Jesus Christ you are living in his kingdom. That’s where you are. You do not have to wait until Jesus comes again. He has already come. The kingdom of God is here. It is within us and around us. We are walking with God every day. We live with an awareness of his presence and the expectation of his working in our lives. We are not just sitting around waiting for heaven. Heaven has already begun for believers. We are already getting a taste of what it will be like. God is our Father, Jesus Christ is our brother, and our sins are forgiven. His resurrection is the promise of eternal life for us. God has shared his joy with us and placed his peace within us. Because we are living in the kingdom, we live in hope. It is because of where we are that we know where we are going.
We live with confidence in the present and we face the future with courage because…Hebrews 6;19
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls….”
Bethany Hamilton was once ranked as the best amateur teen surfer in Hawaii. But one day in October, 2003, she lost an arm to a tiger shark while surfing. The story of a beautiful and talented teenager losing an arm to a shark made national news. However, there is another side to Bethany that kept her from being depressed and sinking into a life of self-pity — she had a relationship with Christ that transcended the tragedy she experienced. Soon after the attack, she began to raise money to restore a man’s eyesight. While she was visiting New York City, she gave her ski coat to a homeless girl. Her story which appeared in USA Today states: “As always, Hamilton remains undaunted. She has told her father that if having only one arm proved detrimental to reaching the top in competitive surfing, then she’d see about playing soccer.”
Her pastor, Steve Thompson, said, “She’s looking forward to the future. She’s asking herself, ‘How can I show the world I still have a life, that I enjoy my life, and that my life is filled with joy?’ She has an underlying trust that God is taking care of her.” There is someone who understands who she is, whose she is and where she is.
Her tragedy became a triumph, and it was all because Hope came to earth one Christmas day.
And so, I say with Paul Ephesians 1:18
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
All of this shows that are hope is accomplished in this familiar Christmas passageIsaiah 9:6,7
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,