Hope, 1st Sunday in Advent

The two great hopes of Christmas are the gift of reconciliation with God and the promise of the 2nd coming.

1st Sunday in Advent 2018
Hope

I trust you had the best Thanksgiving festivities possible. This Sunday is the beginning of our Christmas Celebration. Traditionally we speak of hope on the first Sunday of Advent. Two great hopes we will consider are the hope of salvation and the hope of the second coming. We light a candle demonstrating our faith in the promise that God would send a light into the world.

The prophet Isaiah revealed that something incredible would eventually happen.

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)
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.

John the Apostle proclaimed:

John 1:9 (NIV)
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

As we read the gospels we learn that it is Jesus from Nazareth son of Joseph and Mary that Isaiah and the Baptist foretold.

John 1:4-5 (NIV)
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

The mystery is amazing! A virgin birth! Something supernatural happened:
Luke 1:35 (NIV)
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you [Mary], and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Israelites incarnated. Another mystery. How we do not know but this is the testimony of scripture:

Philippians 2:6-8 (MSG)
[Jesus] had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.

Why is that necessary? Justice and love. Justice in that sin, the destroyer, must be destroyed; sin robs people of fellowship with God, this had to come to an end. Love in that God Himself in Christ provided an atonement so that the estrangement that separated humanity from God could finally come to an end.

The first hope is forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God. There is no need to go through some long list labeling behavior, actions, and thoughts that the scripture indicate miss the mark of God holiness and righteousness. It is simply easier to acknowledge that as the scripture reveals: “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one”
(Romans 3:12 (NIV).

The worthless are destroyed. The wrath of God falls upon the worthless. The worthless are forever separated from the love of God. You have the images, utter darkness, unquenchable fire, carrion worms, weeping and grinding of teeth, images of Hell, what Hell is reality is we do not know, but it is the place sinners are assigned along with the Devil and all his angles.

But it is God’s will no one be destroyed (2 Peter 3:9): "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life”
(John 3:16 (MSG).

Christmas is time for realizing the hope of salvation. Are you escaping the list of charges against you, the sins you have committed? Acknowledge that you are separated from God, your sins are just cause to condemn you. Believe that God in Jesus provided you an atonement, that Jesus died and rose again to be your advocate so that you can enter into a right relationship with God. Then knowing this to be true, you bend the knee to the will and way of God, being a disciple of Jesus, growing deep, growing up and growing fruit. Is this first Sunday in Advent, the time you become one of the forgiven? Ask God to accept your faith. Let this be the day of your new birth into the living hope of Christ Jesus.

If you’ve fallen away, if your devotion has waned, renew your commitment now. Don’t wait, Now is all that you have. Don’t let this opportunity slip by. That’s one reason we light the Candle of hope, year after year, it’s a call to remembrance and renewal. Return to your first love. Now is an opportunity to set things right.

Hebrews 10:10 & Zephaniah 3:15(NIV)
We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. “The Lord has taken away your punishment…”

No punishment. No is the time to take advantage of what God has offered.

The hope of Christmas, reconciliation with God.
There is another hope. That hope is the second coming. For centuries the Church has longed for the return of Jesus. Why?

In the Apostle John’s vision --
Revelation 21:2-7 (MSG)
I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They're his people, he's their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone." The Enthroned continued, "Look! I'm making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate."

Then he said, "It's happened. I'm A to Z. I'm the Beginning, I'm the Conclusion. From Water-of-Life Well I give freely to the thirsty. Conquerors inherit all this. I'll be God to them, they'll be sons and daughters to me.

We hope for the second coming because it is in the event of the second coming that all things are made right. How, is another mystery. Yet when I consider the mess we have made, the destruction we have perpetrated upon the planet, the atrocities we have visited upon one another, the pain and suffering caused by both moral and natural evil we need another mystery, a supernatural intervention to set things right.  It is in the event of the second coming that the scales will be balanced and all things will become as God originally intended, the event the entire Church hopes for. The kingdoms of the world will become the Kingdom of our God

John 14:1-3 (NIV)
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Though we do not see Him now, we have the testimony of those who did. Jesus said that He would go and then would return and take us with Him. The second coming is the beginning of this event.

Acts 1:9-11 (MSG)
As they watched, [Jesus] was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, "You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left."

The eyewitnesses said they we told by angels that Jesus would return. On his return, the inaugurated Kingdom will become the consummated Kingdom. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him… (Rev 1:7 (NIV). "And then they'll see the Son of Man enter in grand style, his Arrival filling the sky—no one will miss it!” (Mark 13:26 (MSG). The truth will be undeniable, no more lies, illusions or delusions, what is false will be seen for what it is a sham.

Jesus ascended around 30 AD. That’s a long, long, long time ago. Still, we hope. Even soon after the accession, there were those who questioned, who scoffed at the idea, the skeptics, the doubters. No different then as now. 

2 Peter 3:3-4 (MSG)
First off, you need to know that in the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday. Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they'll mock, "So what's happened to the promise of his Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything's going on just as it has from the first day of creation. Nothing's changed."

It’s been a long, long, long time. Still, we hope. I have wondered why it has been so long. When I read the early writings of the Apostle Paul it seems to me he was expecting Jesus return during his lifetime. Why is this hoped for the event so long in coming? The Apostle Peter points us to an answer:

2 Peter 3:9 (MSG)
God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change.

Take advantage of the space and time God has afforded you. Let the hope of reconciliation and the hope of the second coming empower you today in your discipleship. Let hope fuel you love. As we wait we are not to be idle. As we wait we are to be about doing the things God has given each of us to do. As we wait we are to be the ones who bring a glimpse of the Kingdom to others. As we wait we are to be a shining light in the darkness. Make the most of the space and time God has afforded you.

Acts 1:6-8 (MSG)
When they were together for the last time they asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?"
He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."

As a believer while we hope in the promise of salvation, while we hope in the second coming we are to be witnesses, out in the streets, loving on people, advocates for justice and equality, seeing the needs and doing what we can to meet those needs.  This is why you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returns may He find you busy doing the work He has called you to.


This 1st Sunday in Advent, the first Sunday of our Christmas Celebration let the hope for the future empower you in the present and give thanks for the great and precious promises that are yours in Christ Jesus. 
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