Week One: HOPE

Over two thousand years ago, a starburst through the darkness and signaled the long-awaited, yet still unexpected birth of a Savior.   Christmas can still truly give us a taste of the most wonderful time of world history. Jesus—the Messiah, the Savior—came as the light into the darkness and stress and pain of the world—our world. That world then, just like our world now, including our lives, needs the light to illuminate, clarify, guide, and heal. Christ’s coming brings that ultimate light through hope, love, joy, and peace. This is the journey of following the star to Christmas—and beyond!

Jesus' humble birth was not what the people of Israel were expecting. The people were weary of waiting for their Savior. Sometimes we also give up too soon on what we're believing for.  Our journey this Advent will take us through the true gifts of Christmas: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace, and it will realign our expectations and experience of the Christmas season.
The first week of Advent is the week of Hope. The story of Jesus’ birth actually began thousands of years before he was born. God promised the people of Israel that he would provide a Messiah (Savior) to save them from their sins.  He did this through the prophet Isaiah, who lived hundreds of years before Jesus, who predicted the birth of Jesus as a promise of hope from God. The word Immanuel means God living with us and was fulfilled when Jesus came to live on earth as the Messiah.

But there was a long, dark period between Isaiah’s words and the arrival of Christ.  And even then, the  Jewish expectation for the Messiah was as a "Son of David", to come as a conquering Messiah, restoring the political fortunes of the Jews.  They got a baby who was a suffering servant, prophet, priest and king.  Not what they expected.  No wonder they thought God had forgotten them. Regardless of what they believed, Advent is that moment in time when hope entered a world of darkness and despair. In a time of bleakest outlook, where injustice reigned and oppression was spreading like a plague, hope was born.

Hope is a funny word.  To me, it’s kind of a nebulous word for a nebulous idea or feeling. How many times do we say, “Oh, I hope so!” or “I hope you have a good day.” or “I hope you have a great time!” It’s kind of like a wish.  Other times it’s an expectation for something to happen or for someone to make something happen. We often put our hope in things, in people, in events.  Recently, a lot of people placed their hope in political candidates; hoping their candidates would win and make our country a better place. This is exactly what the Jewish people living more than two thousand years ago were hoping and wishing for; rescue from the tyrannical rule of the Romans.  They were hoping for the arrival of the Messiah to rescue them and bring about a just and peaceful kingdom.

As weary people, we all have a longing or hope in our hearts.  We hope for something better.  We hope that God will answer our prayers.  And He did.  He sent his son to Earth to live as us and die for us.  Each Advent, we have the opportunity to again see the light in the darkness, to follow the star to the feet of Jesus.  A chance to let go of what we have accumulated throughout the year and again bask in the glow of the baby Jesus.

Jesus freed us from sin and shame.  He made a way for us to live in love and joy and peace. Whatever our circumstance Jesus has provided a way for us. And he has placed in our hearts a desire for something more than this world has to offer. We know that God has something better for us. And yet, while we are here, we should not only live in hope and expectation but live well because of that hope.

Pastor David

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