Sunday, November 29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent Message - Hope

Hope is the Life Line

The first Sunday of Advent has a very simple meaning, yet it is sometimes the most difficult to live. This Sunday is devoted to hope. Hope is the one thing that man needs during a crisis. It sustains him when all seems lost. For nonbelievers, hope commonly means a “wish” that draws strength from the desire of the individual. For believers, it is something entirely different. Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is based on His faithfulness and not in the desires of man.

In short, a Christian’s hope is solely based on God and his promise to his children. It doesn’t rely on our desires or a wish. That hope is more than just a word. It carries weight and expectation.

If you look up the word, “hope”, in an English dictionary, you will find that it is an abstract idea based on some sort of expectation. The word for hope in Hebrew, “Tikvah”, however, is more concrete. In Hebrew, the word means expectation—and  it also means cord or rope, which comes from a root word that means to bind or to wait for or upon. Tikvah is a rope that we can hang onto when the world seems out of control or when we don't know how to make it through a difficult season in life, like the promise given to the Israelites in captivity in a foreign land.

As we approach the blessed day of Jesus’ birth, God’s promise to give us his son, when viewed through the lens of “hope”, takes on a different meaning for us. Jesus becomes that life line that is cast out to us as we struggle in the tempest. We are tossed to and fro with each crash of a wave against us. God’s promise of that life line gives us something to hang onto when things are so difficult and we feel that we just can’t make it.

As I reflect on my own storms, it was very difficult for me to stay afloat on my own. If I relied on my own strength and desire to live, I, without reservation, can say that I would have not made it. Twice in my life I nearly died. Both times I faced horrible medical issues. In both situations, medical doctors and specialists were unable to explain how I managed to survive. 

A little over two years ago, I faced a horrible medical issue that should have ended my life. One surgeon told my wife that I was within days of dying. One specialist told me that I had only a twenty percent chance of leaving the hospital alive. You could say that my desire to live gave me hope and that translated into my surviving both medical situations. I, however, will tell you something entirely different.

I held on for dear life to that life line God had promised his children thousands of years ago. When I was sinking and about to succumb to the storms, a hand reached into the water and snatched me back from certain death in both instances. God has provided that life line to me and I am so very thankful for that promise that He kept.

That hope is expressed so beautifully in the words of His prophet, Isaiah. It is through him that God tells of his promise of hope not only for the Israelites but also for each of us. God’s promise gives us hope when we walk in darkness. That hope is like a great light that draws us to Him. 

Isaiah, in chapter nine of his book, writes, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

That light provides us with hope and expectation that things will get better and that we don’t have to continue to walk in darkness. It is the proverbial light at the end of a dark tunnel. It is a sunrise that tells us that we have another day to live.

In his poem, “An Essay on Man”, Alexander Pope writes this famous line that everyone quotes during the worst of times, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest. The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

These words perfectly express that hope that each of us carries in our hearts. We all know the meaning of Christmas and the significance of the blessed event that comes with it. The birth of Jesus is that great light that shines, like a lighthouse’s beam, into the darkness. 

In the first chapter of his Gospel, John writes, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

That hope we have is the expectation of the coming of that light. Darkness cannot overcome this light. It remains as bright as it first appeared over 2,000 years ago. Nothing can take away that light from us. The promise that was given by God binds us to him. That bond is eternal and is a promise of eternal life for those who walk in a world of darkness.

As you think about this first Sunday of Advent and the word, “hope”, it is my prayer that hope will spring eternal in your heart each day as you walk with the Lord. That light will always shine for you and you have nothing to fear. For those who walk in darkness and fear the next moment, there is a light at the end of that dark, dark tunnel. Don’t ignore it or rely on your own strength. I ask you to look for that rope and life line called Jesus Christ.

The psalmist, in Psalm seventy-one, writes, “O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood.

If you have strayed away from your relationship with the Lord or have let go of that rope, I urge you today to say those very words. The Lord truly is your one and only hope. Trust Him and you will be rescued and that light once again will shine eternal for you. When that hope springs eternal in your heart and that great light is there to cast away the darkness, I guarantee that you will be able to stand firm in His grace.     

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

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