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12/04/2016, Second Sunday of Advent
Hope Is on the Way: “We Work While We Wait”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
When is the last time you used the word “hope” in a sentence? Was it a verb? Or a noun?
Let me take you back to grammar school for a minute: a noun might be defined as a person, place or thing; and a verb is usually understood as an action word.
The word “hope” as a verb might be, “I hope everything comes out OK”, or “I hope she arrives home safely”, or “I hope Wheeler’s sermon gets done in time to watch the Seahawks game.”(Since they don’t play until 5:30 tonight, I hope so, too!)
Using “hope” as a noun might sound like, “there is great hope that this surgery took care of everything”, or “there is no hope that Wheeler will ever be very good at that dang guitar”. Or, look at your sermon title: “Hope is on the way!”
Last week we began the Season of Advent by concluding the series on the Six Great Ends/Purposes of the Church – The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. I had originally hoped to finish that series the week before, but we had the privilege of hearing Jack Hewson’s testimony back in October, and that bumped that series into Advent – it seems that God had a better plan.
The first Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy after 400 years of silence – God exhibited the Kingdom of Heaven to the World when His Son became flesh and was born in Bethlehem. Hope was fulfilled.
And we are promised that Christ will return! We wait … but Hope is on the Way! I sincerely want the people of LPC to know, I want everyone on Nevada Street to know, I want all of Spokane to know, that Hope is on the Way!
So on this Second Sunday of Advent – the Season meant to prepare us for Christ’s coming (as a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago and as the King of all kings and Lord of all lords when He returns!) – hear the Good News that, despite whatever circumstances our lives are facing, regardless of the darkness that seems to engulf our lives, Jesus Christ is our Hope – He is here and He is coming back!
Listen with me as the Apostle Matthew introduces us to Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. From all appearances, this is the first time Jesus and John have actually seen each other face to face – but it is not the first time they met each other…. Can anyone tell us when was the first time Jesus and John were in the same room together? [Luke 1 tells us that the pregnant virgin Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and Luke 1:41 says, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby (John) leaped in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Today’s story takes place almost THIRTY years later! As we read these 12 short verses, listen for what John the Baptist did between these two meetings. Matthew 3:1-12 ….—-
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
So … what did John do? Did he sit around and wait for Jesus to start something? Matthew tells us that John came, preaching in the wilderness, saying “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” He baptized people repenting of their sins. He preached against the scribes and Pharisees.
John studied; John prepared himself for what God called him to do. Tradition tells us that maybe John was a member of a special group of Jews called the Essenes – they were like a fraternal order of Jewish priests who dedicated their lives to the study of Scripture (Old Testament) and communal living. Some believe they are responsible for preserving the Scriptures that were discovered in 1948 – the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What did John do? He waited for the Messiah, the Christ, to present Himself – and in the meantime he worked! Hard!
When we were in Kenya last July, one Sunday I was invited to preach in a large, prosperous church in Bungoma, and Pastor Cary preached in the small, rural church in Kiminini. We weren’t together, so we didn’t hear each other – so this story is second or third hand….
Cary was preaching on being faithful in our prayers, and he was making a point that when we pray for something to happen, it is not faithful to pray and then do nothing expecting results. If we need a job, we pray for a job … and we go out and apply for jobs! His illustration was something like, “When we pray for money, should we then just go sit under a tree and wait?” And the congregation, in Swahili, responded with words acknowledging Cary’s point.
Later he was told that the translator said, in Swahili, “When we pray, we should just sit under a tree and wait.” And the congregation had responded agreeing with that! Point lost!
No! Faithfulness means acting on our faith! Always. Faithfulness means doing something. We Work While We Wait!
People need hope during times of darkness—That hope is Christ. Christ was the hope of a world that sat in darkness for many years without hearing the voice of God. At his birth, hope came into the world.
Are you aware of everything that took place in Israel during those silent years between the Old Testament and New Testament? The blessings of Isaiah 60 are that a world that sat is darkness without hope will find hope. That hope was to be found in Jesus Christ.
Throughout His ministry Jesus Christ, brought hope wherever He traveled. He brought hope to the aged temple watchers when presented at 8 days old (Luke 2); He brought hope to the woman at the well (John 4); He brought hope to the maniac of Gadara when He cast out the demons who fled to the swine (Matthew 8); He brought hope to Mary and Martha when He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 10).
He is our Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13). And we know that Jesus Christ is coming again.
So what work do we need to do? There is a general answer to that – things we all need to do – and there are specific, individual, particular answers to that, unique to each one of us. Jesus gave unique answers (“sell everything and give to the poor”, “wash in the pool of Siloam”, “come down from the tree, I’ll have dinner at your house tonight”).
But He also gave general answers, that apply to everyone. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!”
One thing we all must do is REPENT! Turn away from those choices and lifestyles that we know are counter to what God says is right. Submit to Him as Lord. Turn around (that is what REPENT means)!
From what must we REPENT? I am sure we each have our specific sins, when we see them, REPENT. But we also all share some sins in common: selfishness, trusting in ourselves more than in God, greed, prejudice….
We must Be READY! Be READY for Christ’s return! In Luke 18 Jesus addresses His disciples, His closest followers, and asks them “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” We must be READY to acknowledge His glory and His presence and His power. And we must be READY to submit to Him, to serve Him, to accept His love and to love Him back by sharing His love with the most unlovable ones around us! (That kind of reminds me to REPENT!)
Invest this Advent Season getting READY for Christmas – not the shopping and decorating (that’s all OK), but your hearts and your relationships with loved ones so that you can share the Gospel truth!
John the Baptist says in today’s reading, verse 11, “After me comes one who is more powerful, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire!”
Be READY for Holy Spirit baptism!
REJOICE when we do know Him – not just know about Him – know Him! REJOICE! Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies. With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Our Hope is in Jesus Christ! REPENT. Be READY. REJOICE!
Hope is a temporary need of the soul (I Corinthians 13:13). The reason love is the greater than faith is because in heaven our faith journey will end, and our faith will be sight. Just as faith is a temporary need of the soul, so it is with hope. On the day that we stand before Jesus Christ and see Him face to face we will have no need to hope, we will then know Him even as He now knows us. We will stand before the hope of all mankind and He will no longer be our hope, He will be our intimate friend and brother, our Lord and Savior, the one who gave His life so that we might live eternally.
Hope is on the way! Psychologists tell us that the Christmas season can be one of the most stressful times of the year. I doubt we really needed a psychologist to tell us that. More depression diagnoses are made in the holiday season than any other time of the year.
Are you having a blue Christmas as the song writer said once? Hope is on the way!
Take that message to the single mother who cries herself to sleep at night praying that God will take care of her and her children. Hope is on the way!
To the stressed out father who is trying so hard to provide for his family we have a message to proclaim: Hope is on the way!
To the lonely widow who celebrates Christmas after saying goodbye to her dearest on earth: Hope is on the way!
When the night seems too long and you awake to a dreary day, don’t lose hope, Hope is on the way!
If you are fighting a battle of fear and it seems that God is silent, just hold on, Hope is on the way!
When your heart is broken in two and you’re standing in the rubble of your life, God’s Word says, “Hold on my child your weeping only lasts for a night–joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Hope is on the way!
Will you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your hope this morning? He is the only true object of hope. Hope is on the way! Have you made Jesus Christ your personal savior? Hope is here!
Delozier, John; Lighthouse Fellowship; Red Lion, PA “Advent: Hope Is on the Way”; December 3, 2006.