Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - First Sunday of Advent - Hope

When we face situations that seem insurmountable, we have one thing that keeps us going from one day to the next. That “thing” is hope. We always hope that things will get better and that hope gives us the strength to not only take on the present challenges but gives us that silver lining for tomorrow. As humans, hope is one of the things we depend on to get us through the problems we face.

It doesn’t matter the size or type of problem. Our hope gets us through each moment. Think back to a particular hard and arduous problem that you faced. It seemed like it lasted for days, weeks or months. In fact, it might have lasted months or even years. We all face these types of problems. Whether they lasted for hours or years, we counted on hope to get us through each moment of what we had to endure.

For me, it was four years ago when I had to deal with an illness that nearly took my life. When the doctors finally figured out what I had, some were already telling me that I only had a twenty percent chance of living. One doctor, while working on my case early in the ordeal, said, “If you are lucky, it’s cancer. If it’s the other, we don’t have a lot of time.”

It took over a year for me to get through that horrible situation. Each day was so difficult to get through. I was taking medications that caused so many side effects. There were so many unknowns to the team of doctors and specialists who worked so hard to just keep me alive from one moment to the next.

Then, there were the times when I wondered about the next day. I thought about how I was going to get through tomorrow’s unknown. There were days when more and more problems would appear and I had to get through each of them. But, I had hope to keep me going from one moment to the next.

The noted inventor and patent draftsman, Lewis Howard Latimer, once said, while paraphrasing Alexander Pope, “”Hope springs eternal in the human breast,’ and is as necessary to life as the act of breathing.”

Hope gives us the strength to take that next hard step and prepares us for each additional step. If we didn’t have hope, we would certainly feel the hand of doom upon us daily. We would seem powerless and wouldn’t even want to go on. 

In the play, “Annie,” there is a song that sums up how we should feel about tomorrow. Annie sings, “Tomorrow”. When you listen to the lyrics of this song, you can easily see the virtues of hope. You just have to push beyond the bad and hope for the best.

As we start the Advent season for this year, we all face issues in our lives that truly seem insurmountable. I see more and more people walking with only sorrow to dog their steps. They don’t see a bright day ahead. They feel that they are doomed and have nothing to look forward to. There is only doom and gloom ahead for them. 

Have you felt that way or are you feeling that way now? We all go through these dark times. But, hope gets us through them and helps us look forward to a new day with optimism. The same holds true for us as we approach Christmas, the birthday of Jesus.   

About 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah. This gave the Israelites hope and a future to look forward to. This child will grow up and provide for not only the children of Israel but also us, salvation. Jew and Gentiles alike will be given a path to redemption from God.

In chapter nine of the book bearing his name, Isaiah tells the Israelites, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”

Their hope as well as our own came in the form of a small child who was born of a virgin in a stable. This child grew up like a normal child and when he grew to manhood, he began to preach the Word of God to all who would listen to him. He would teach us to love one another and, most importantly, seek the Father wholeheartedly. 

Isaiah tells the Israelites more about the Prince of Peace, “He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word,     and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.”

Our hope for salvation rests squarely on the shoulders of this man who didn't come into this world to condemn individuals. He came into it to save them from the wages of sin. The weight of all of the sins of everyone would be borne by his body as he suffers on a cross for each of us. He will become the perfect sacrifice for us and die in our place to end the grip of sin and death once and for all time. This is the hope that we have when we believe, the hope of eternal life with our Heavenly Father and His son.

Hope truly springs eternal for each of us. It gives us the strength to stand firm today knowing that God loves us and the ability to take that next step towards tomorrow. Hope gives us so much to look forward to when we face adversity.

Isaiah said it best, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

No matter what you face today, tomorrow or next week, your hope will renew your strength and allow you to remain faithful to the Lord. To paraphrase the song, “Tomorrow,” a bit, the Son will always be there with you and clear away the cobwebs and sorrow.

As you go through this first week of advent, take time out of your schedule to think about that hope you have received as a gift from Jesus. It is a very special gift that gives you the strength you need to face anything and everything that will pop up in your life. When hope becomes more than just a word and more of a way of life, you can most assuredly stand firm in it and in His grace. 

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

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