1st Sunday of Advent
The Star: A Journey of Hope
(Isaiah 7:14; 9:2; Revelation 7:9, 16-17)
VIDEO – Hope Bumper video
Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent. Today begins our journey to Christmas. It’s only four weeks away! Of course the retail stores have been prepared long before this first Sunday of Advent. The word advent is a version of a Latin term which means “coming.” So we use these weeks leading up to Christmas as a chance to look forward to our celebration of the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, the light of world, our Savior. Advent is a season of great expectation, and I’m glad you’re here with us today as we embark on a journey – actually join in an epic journey that began more than two thousand years ago – and follow the star and discover the light of the world. It’s a journey of the heart and soul, but it’s also a journey that will realign our expectations and experience of the Christmas season. And it’s a journey that will explore the gifts of Christmas delivered by and through Christ: hope, love, joy, and peace. We will need hope in the storms of life and love that never gives up. We need fresh joy on our journey and peace no matter what we’re facing or dealing with.
We’re going to be focusing on the star as our guiding light. It guided the Biblical characters to the place where Jesus was and it can guide us to Jesus, the light of the world, even today.
I have been looking forward to this Christmas season more than in the past couple of years, because of hope!
I’ve experienced hope at home as Judy and I have continued to deepen our relationship as husband and wife as we move into a new phase of life (almost empty nesters)
I’ve also experienced hope at home as I’ve watched our boys develop into fine young men
Wade has become more independent
Seth is finishing college this year and getting married in June to a wonderful young lady, Emily
Levi has matured this past school year and is working more independently on his school work
I’ve also experienced hope at church
There are more people participating in small group Bible studies than in the past couple of years
We have vision for the future and faith to move forward
God has been challenging us as a congregation and I see Him working powerfully in your lives
That brings me great hope!
While I’ve been experiencing hope at home and at the church, I realize that not everyone is experiencing hope, especially during the Christmas season
Are you struggling to experience hope right now?
There are numerous struggles you may be experiencing today that are stripping you of hope
Financial stresses (you want to make Christmas special for your family, but finances are tight)
Relational dysfunctions (you’re not looking forward to the family gathering, because of tensions in your family)
Memories of loss (perhaps the Christmas season is difficult, because you’re remembering a loved one that has passed away – this may be your first Christmas without that individual)
Commercialized expectations (maybe you’re feeling the pressure to keep up with Jones’s)
We’ve all been there at some time or another
We may be there right now in some form or another
We’re not alone
Those who were part of the journey toward the first Christmas – Mary, Joseph, an innkeeper, a jealous king, some wise men, common shepherds, angels, and so many more didn’t even understand what was happening all the time
Mary and Joseph placed their firstborn son in a manger, because there wasn’t room in the inn
Herod wasn’t feeling hopeful when he learned of a king who had been born in Bethlehem
The wise men had a long journey to take in order to see Jesus
The shepherds were afraid when the angels appeared to them
While there were hardships along the journey, most of the characters answered God’s invitation to come and see the arrival of His son, the light of the world and the Savior of all
Will you say yes to the journey?
Will you peer through the darkness of your life, no matter what that may be, and look for the glimmer of hope?
Will you step toward the light of the star even if your vision seems cloudy or muddled?
Will you journey toward Bethlehem, drawn by hope for the love, joy, and peace that await?
Through this journey of hope God wants us to know that . . .
BIG IDEA – Jesus brings hope in the dark times of life.
How do we follow the star on a journey of hope? How can we purposefully live this season of anticipation in light of hope? Let’s look at three key components – acknowledging the darkness around us, embracing the wait, and committing to the journey.
Acknowledging the Darkness
VIDEO – Methanol – fire (1) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZEEuCHdWFA]
In the video we saw that a methanol fire is very hard to see in the daylight, but burns a beautiful blue color in the dark
In the darkness the flame is visible and gives off light
The same is true of stars
We aren’t able to see them during the daytime, but at night (as long as the sky is clear) we can see the stars
In fact the darker the night, the better we can see the stars
If you live in the country as opposed to the city, you will see the stars more clearly, because there are less light
When the moon is that tiny sliver instead of a full-moon we are able to see the stars more clearly
The darker the setting, the brighter the starlight
Just because we can’t see them in the daytime doesn’t mean they aren’t still there
This is the wonder of God’s creation and He chose a star to guide the wise men to Bethlehem
Throughout the Bible, we see how God uses His own creation to reveal Himself to us
Psalm 19:1-4, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world (NIV)
Psalm 8:3-4, When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (NIV)
Masking the darkness
It’s easy for us to mask the darkness that we see in the world around us and in our own hearts, especially during the holidays
We allow the holiday glitz to artificially light our lives, but the darkness within us is still there
But facing darkness and calling it what it is allows us to see true light
Sometimes we have to experience the darkness in order to see the light clearly
If you’ve ever heard the testimony of someone who has come out of an addiction, many times you’ll hear the same thing
They had to hit rock bottom before they were ready to acknowledge the darkness within
It was only when they acknowledged the darkness that they were able to see the light of hope and kick their addiction
There is darkness all around us in our world
The recent news stories of Hollywood executives, newscasters, and politicians who are losing their jobs as a result of inappropriate behavior with the opposite sex or with children
The shooting that took place in a church in Texas
The use of a box truck in New York City to kill individuals
The shooting that happened during a concert in Las Vegas
We don’t have to look far to see that there is darkness all around us
The Israelites were experiencing a dark time also when Jesus showed up
There had been 400 years of silence from God between the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament times
They were also experiencing Roman rule in Israel
They didn’t like having the Romans as their authorities
Their belief about the Messiah was that He would come and set them free from Roman rule
They were looking for a political savior
I’m sure the Israelites felt like God had abandoned them, yet if they remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah they should have been hopeful
Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (NIV)
The time was coming when God would be with man in the flesh
Immanuel means, “God with us”
Isaiah talked about the coming light and the present darkness, and that darkness continued to grow through the centuries
Isaiah 9:2, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (NIV)
Isaiah was foretelling the future
Both of these verses were spoken long before Jesus was born
The people of Israel lived in that space between promise and fulfillment
They were desperate for a deliverer
Today we share that common experience of darkness and desperation
Every one of us wants to be set free from the darkness we are experiencing
Jesus brings hope in the dark times of life.
The greatest darkness we all experience is the darkness of sin in our lives
We are all born with a desire to sin, a desire to have our own way, to be our own boss, to not submit to anyone else as our authority
It is the heart condition of every person
Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (NIV)
Romans 3:10-12, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (NIV)
The darkness of sin is found in every one of us
When we choose to do wrong in our families, school, workplace, or community, there are consequences
The same is true with God, who is holy and just
Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV)
This verse talks about the consequences of our sin, but it also gives us hope
God had a plan to deal with the darkness of sin in our lives
It was sending Jesus from heaven to earth to die on a cross so we could be purified from the darkness of sin in our lives
Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (NIV)
1 Corinthians 15:3-4, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (NIV)
This was God’s plan and promise, through the prophet Isaiah, fulfilled
1 John 1:5-7, This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (NIV)
Perhaps the darkness you need to deal with today is the darkness of sin in your life
Nothing can rescue you from the darkness of sin except God
Jesus entered your darkness that first Christmas, so you could have hope
My Next Step Today Is To: Acknowledge the darkness of sin in my life and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to purify me of my sins.
The beginning of the purification process is talking to God and admitting that you are sinner, that you are sorry for your sin, that you believe in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross, and that you choose to be purified
Sanctification is the ongoing process of purification where we deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus
It’s a lifestyle change that comes through the transforming power of Jesus Christ living within us
Repentance is a 180 degree turn from pursuing sin to pursuing Jesus
Total sanctification will come when Jesus Christ returns, but we are still in the waiting process
We have to learn to embrace the wait
Embrace the Wait
Who likes waiting?
Does anyone like waiting?
How many people waited in a line during Black Friday shopping? (Did anyone enjoy it?)
I remember having to wait on Christmas morning to open presents
We didn’t have the tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve
We were allowed to open our stockings before my parents got up, but we couldn’t open any of the presents under the tree
We’ve continued that tradition with our boys – they are allowed to open their stockings before we get up, but nothing under the tree
The older I’ve gotten the earlier I’ve been getting up, so they probably won’t have to wait as long this Christmas
Children can’t wait for their Birthday or Christmas morning to arrive
Students wait to hear if they’ve been accepted into a college or graduate program
Other students wait to find out if they got the part in the school play/musical or made the team
Adults wait to hear if they got a job or promotion
Parents wait for the birth of their child or children
Other couples wait to hear about adopting a child
If you go to Chick-fil-A, though, you won’t have to wait very long
The Israelites knew all about the long wait
Since Genesis, in the very first book of the Bible, when sin entered the world, we see that God offered the promise of hope
Genesis 3:14-15, So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NIV)
God was talking about Jesus, the source of hope from the very beginning
God had a plan of hope from the start
But constrained by the time of our world, the waiting seemed like forever
Imagine a farmer standing on the dry dust of a parched field and looking up to the sky. Years of drought have taken everything from him, and he has lost hope. But then, in the distance, he hears the rumble of thunder – the promise of rain
That is the image John the Baptist gave of himself when people asked if he was the Messiah. No, he was not, but he was announcing the arrival of the long-awaited One. He was the herald of hope.
John 1:23, “I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.” (MSG)
Advent is a time of waiting
While we struggle with waiting in our culture, there is great benefit in embracing this season as we anticipate the coming of Jesus
The waiting reminds us of where our hope is set
It allows us the time and focus to hear the distant rumble of thunder, the promise that our hope will be fulfilled
God keeps His promises and He has promised to send Jesus a second time
As we wait to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we also wait for our true hope to be fulfilled – our complete and total sanctification – the perfecting of our souls
The apostle John describes it for us in Revelation 7:9, 16-17
Revelation 7:9, 16-17, After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb . . . Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (NIV)
We still live in the space between the already and the not yet
We have to embrace the waiting just like the Israelites did
They were waiting for the arrival of the Messiah the first time
We’re waiting for the arrival of the Messiah the second time
Hope is what fuels our faith as we wait, because we know that eternity with God will far outweigh what we have experienced here on earth – the darkness that we are currently experiencing, that is stripping us of hope
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV)
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (NIV)
Will you allow this Advent season to serve as a reminder of the confidence we have as we wait in hope for what we do not yet see?
Will you seek the light of the star, no matter how faintly it might first appear to you, and draw hope from its growing light?
My Next Step Today Is To: Wait with hope for Jesus’ second coming and for my complete and total sanctification.
We normally define waiting as an inactive process, but it can be an active process – we have to commit to the journey
Commit to the Journey
The concept of waiting throughout the Bible is one of active waiting
It is not just sitting around, doing nothing
We wait with expectant hearts, but we are constantly moving forward on our journey
“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.” [Henri J. M. Nouwen, Waiting for God]
What an excellent description of Advent!
Wait means being active, present in the moment while still anticipating where we are going
It not’s easy!
It takes strength and courage, but we can receive that from the Lord
Psalm 31:24, Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (NIV)
So what does that look like in real life?
The apostle Peter gives us great words of wisdom that apply to our real lives – he speaks about being holy
1 Peter 1:13-16, Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)
Hope is about waiting, but that waiting involves a commitment to being present in our journey of obedience
Preparing our minds means that we are alert, it involves expectation and active anticipation
Being self-controlled is also an active process as we wait
Each of us is perhaps at a different place in our journey with God
That’s natural and normal
Don’t compare with those who are also on the journey, but are at a different place – keep following God’s light
Advent is not about finding all the answers or checking all the boxes
It’s about preparing
You just have to show up and be willing to follow God’s lead
He wants to fill you heart with hope and healing as you seek His Son, Jesus
VIDEO – “Advent_1_-_Hope_English_Version”