Advent: A Season of Choices
Message: ‘Choose: HOPE Text: Various
Introduction: Anonymous Quote:
- Hope looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst in them.
- Hope opens doors where despair closes them.
- Hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot be done.
- Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God.
- Hope “lights a candle” instead of “cursing the darkness.”
- Hope regards problems, small or large, as opportunities.
- Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism.
But… Hope… for far too many people today, is elusive at best. And here’s one reason why.
- Whatever we’re preoccupied with,
- whatever we dwell on
- will become larger than life for us.
That’s especially true when what we’re preoccupied with; is negative, hurtful, confusing, frightening, or outside our control.
- Can anyone say PP: COVID-19?
Make no mistake, even though these things are harmful, we still choose to dwell on them.
- Perhaps it’s because it floods TV or Social Media.
- Perhaps it’s because we have family or friends who seem to always dwell on the negative.
- Perhaps it’s due to walking past all the stores in the Monmouth Mall that are closed.
- Perhaps it because you’ve been laid off from work for a long time due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Perhaps it’s because you fear getting COVID and you haven’t left your home in 9 months.
- Perhaps it’s because you’ve lacked connection with others… family, friends, brothers & sisters in Christ.
While we can think our feelings of hopelessness have been dumped upon us, the truth is, we’ve chosen to follow that path.
- That’s why we feel detached, that’s why we feel lost. That’s why we sink to hopelessness.
The Season of Advent reminds us that there is another path we can choose to follow.
- The path of hope.
PP: Today is the 1st Sunday in Advent and John has lit the 1st candle… HOPE!
- Lighting it represents the hope of our nation, the hope of the world, has come, in Jesus
But as John chose to do the Advent candle reading and lighting this morning, this candle represents our choice; to see hope, to bear hope, to demonstrate hope… to BE HOPE to all those around us.
Transition: Let’s see how we do that. Open your Bibles to Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
- Isaiah 9:1a-2, 6-7 Hope revealed
We find Hope in God’s Word. And the message of God’s Word is that no situation, no adverse circumstance, no hardship, no pain, no, hurt,
no betrayal… is without hope.
Isaiah spent almost 8 chapters describing the very real and devastating life of the people of Israel in his day.
- They came to realize they couldn’t help themselves… because they were the problem.
- They realized they couldn’t expect help from the government, since their kings had constantly let them and God down.
- They realized they couldn’t expect help from the religious leaders, because they were compromised by the world around them.
For them.. there was no help… there was no hope.
- Gee, sound a lot like life today, doesn’t it?
Chapter 9, Isaiah begins with the word… but. He starts to contrast their current state of hopelessness with what God plans to do to bring them hope.
PP: But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish…The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…
Then Isaiah gets specific when he tells the burdened, the fearful, the broken what hope looks like.
PP: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
Hope is not a ‘what’ it’s a ‘who!’
- How can the birth of a baby transform the hopelessness of God’s people into a confident assurance of God’s forgiveness, acceptance and love?
To bring it closer to home:
- What difference can the birth of one baby make tonight, when you put your head on your pillow and your mind races with all the negative possibilities that might ruin your life.
- What difference can the birth of one baby make when you can’t work, can’t pay your bills, can’t go outside and be with others because you fear testing positive for COVID?
- What difference can the birth of one baby make as you face the harsh reality of life where you often feel unappreciated, unloved and unimportant?
The difference…is the identity of that one baby. Things can and will change, because this was no ordinary child. PP: Manger
- This child is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
- This child is the creator and sustainer of the universe and all life in it.
- This child cares for people like no other.
- This child heals the sick, raised the dead, comforts the lonely and outcast.
- This child removes fear and replaces it with love.
- This child forgives sin and gives eternal life.
- This child… is Jesus.
His decision to enter humanity makes all the difference! Because now, we don’t face life’s hardships alone.
Two Chapters earlier in Isaiah the prophet calls this child: Immanuel, which means God with us.
You see, when you have Jesus, you have God Himself. And when you Have God…you have hope!
- By faith in Jesus, we have Someone beside us when life isn’t at its best, to comfort, guides and cares for us.
- By faith in Jesus, we have Someone who loves us more than we can possibly imagine.
- By faith in Jesus, we have Someone who has sacrificed everything for our good.
- By faith in Jesus…we have hope!
After reading what Isaiah said about how difficult and hopeless life was for the Israelites, it would be cruel to make those kinds of promises of hope…if you can’t back them up.
- But… God can back it up.
PP: The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
The zeal, the passion, the very heart of God, makes this hope… this wonderful hope, our confident assurance, our present reality.
God has revealed His HOPE to the world and it’s Jesus.
- Making hope not only possible, but a promise!
- Revelation 2:8-10 Choose hope
PP: And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, Who died and came to life.’‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
PP: ILL: A Columbia researcher named Sheena Iyengar has found that the average person makes about 70 choices every day. That’s 25,500 choices a year. Over 70 years, that’s 1,788,500 choices. Of those almost 1.8 million choices, one stands out above all others.
In John’s vision, Jesus was encouraging the Christians in the church in Smyrna, to choose the hope that not only comes from Him, but is Him, Jesus.
Talk about getting bad news. PP: text
- You are and will continue to experience tribulation, poverty slander, suffering, prison … and death.
Jesus told them, yes things are bad, and they’re going to get worse. I know that. I know what you are and will go through and it won’t be easy for you.
Jesus knows that hardship, suffering, uncertainly, fear, often brings out the worst in people, even Christians. But, He’s telling them and us, that it doesn’t have to be that way.
- We can choose a different path.
- We can choose HOPE.
Jesus tells the struggling to choose Hope by remaining faithful to Him, even in the midst of sever hardship, even death. Because, by choosing hope, you will see eternal life, you will reach your ultimate destination on your path of life… heaven.
- PP: Be faithful…and I will give you the crown of life.
The crown of life… it’s
- The pinnacle of living.
- The goal of life.
- The highest point, the reason to live…
Christian listen, choosing HOPE means we no longer choose to live defeated, lost, helpless and hopeless. We no longer choose to give up.
Choosing HOPE means we see life differently. Daily, in the midst of whatever circumstance that may come our way, we choose
PP: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
- We choose HOPE.
Transition: But by choosing hope, understand God is concerned with not just what’s going on around you. He’s concerned with what you do, with HOPE.
- Ezekiel 37:1-14; Be hope
PP: The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And He led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Then He said to me,
PP: “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.
PP: So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
PP: Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O My people.
PP: And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O My people. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.
One of the most frightening words in the English language is hopeless. It’s even more frightening when it’s not just a word, but it’s a reality in our minds and hearts.
And perhaps the most hopeless situation in life,
PP: is… death.
- There’s no coming back from that,
- no medicine, no healing that can bring life, once the body is dead.
And to add insult to injury, those who were in the field in this text, were not just dead, they were dead right down to the bone. PP: Skeleton
- No clothes, no skin, no muscle, no tendons,
- No internal organs, no… nothing, but bones.
BUT, this text reminds us that nothing in life, nothing in life, even death, is without hope.
- When God gets involved.
God called Ezekiel to speak to the dried-up dead bones, and when he did, God gave them life. PP:
Life… from dry, old, dead bones.
- That my friends is HOPE realized!
- It’s the promise of salvation from God to people who are dead in their sin.
- It’s the promise of life, abundant life here.
- It’s the promise of eternal life with God in heaven.
And that’s the HOPE for all sinful humanity.
Ill: Garth Wehrfritz- Hanson wrote: PP:
Once upon a time, a manufacturer of shoes sent two salespersons to a far-away land. Shortly after their arrival, he received an e-mail from each salesperson.
- One pleaded: “Get me out of here, no one wears shoes!”
- The other requested: “Send me more inventory, everyone needs shoes!”
In the Old Testament, God’s people were called to be priests to the world, shoe salesmen, if you will, bringing the promise of Hope, of life to those hopelessly dead in their sin.
The reason they needed to hear about God’s Hope was because of the consequences for their sin.
- Unconfessed, unforgiven sin separates them from God.
- Separated from God means no blessings from God, no acceptance, no guidance, no comfort, no love from God… in this life or the next.
And that situation has never changed.
This text reminds all of us that God is the God of hope and the message of hope is still the same:
- PP: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
- as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
- For the wages of sin is death
That’s the bad news. That’s the reason for our hopelessness. By rejecting Jesus, we also reject His HOPE.
But.. here’s the Good News of Hope:
- PP: the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
- God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
- PP: For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
- Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- Like the prophet Ezekiel whom God chose to use to bring life to the dead, hope to the hopeless,
- God has called His children today to choose to
- PP: be hope to the lost, to the broken, to the helpless and hopeless around us.
We are called by God to be faithful and share to His message of the forgiveness of sin and life, abundant and eternal life through faith in Jesus
- HOPE, even though the life we currently have may seem… hopeless.
Gordon Cuyrley tells the following story. PP:
- Years ago an S-4 submarine was rammed by a ship off the coast of Massachusetts. It sank immediately. The entire crew was trapped in a prison house of death. Every effort was made to rescue the crew, but it ultimately failed.
- Near the end of the ordeal, a deep sea diver, who was doing everything in his power to find a way for the crew’s release, thought he heard tapping on the steel wall of the sunken sub. He placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel and he realized it was the Morse Code.
- He attached himself to the side and spelled out in his mind the message being tapped from within. It was repeating the same question. The question was, from inside the sunken sub was: Is…there…any…hope?
There was hope… PP: but only because someone choose to bring it to them.
We need to BE HOPE to those around us. But that’s hard when we struggle with.. life ourselves.
We need a fresh breath of life from God. The increasingly secular, sinful world around us, can at times be suffocating.
- It can take our focus off of BEING HOPE to others to being desperate for HOPE ourselves.
Perhaps we can use our text in Ezekiel
- to breath new hope into our lives,
- to renew our faith,
- to restore our joy,
- to recommit to our calling to BE HOPE to a dying world.
Friends, we live in a broken, divided, angry, fearful world. We, God’s church, are the only real source of HOPE for our world.
- God is in control. God is sovereign. God cares.
- God sent His Son, Jesus to die for our sin. To bring forgiveness, to give life to our dead bones… To give us HOPE.
As followers so Jesus Christ, let’s BE HOPE to everyone that comes into our homes, we see in the classroom or office, ore we talk in our neighborhoods. Let them see Jesus, see Hope in us.
As a church community, let’s BE HOPE to everyone that comes through our doors.
- Let’s not just give them a reason to come back,
- let them see Jesus in us and give them a reason to have hope.
- When all is dark, people need hope,
- when all is frightening, people need hope,
- when all is confusing people need hope,
- when all seems lost, people need hope.
That hope, real and lasing hope, is only found in Jesus.
This advent season we remember God’s greatest gift to us is the Hope found in Jesus…
- The baby born in Bethlehem
- the Son of God who died on a cross in Jerusalem
- and the Risen Savior who makes intercession for us in heaven.
PP: This Advent season we are encouraged to choose hope.