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The Emotions of Christmas: Hope


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.


SERMON

In advent every year in every church where i have ever worshipped we light these 4 candles, one a week, on an advent wreath: And they are called hope, peace, joy and love, as we count down the 4 weeks of advent until Christmas. But why, what do these candles symbolise?


These emotions, these things are all things that we see in the Christmas story and in the centuries leading up to it. These are longings, emotions, these are such necessary things for our hearts, these are all things that we want for ourselves and for those we love but for so many they are so hard to find.

So this advent we are going to have a series of sermons on the emotions of Christmas: hope, peace, joy and love.


The modern Christmas, especially the commercial Christmas is characterised by anything but peace. The timer starts to tick down from three months away: have you finished all of your gift shopping? For so many it's about anxiety rather than peace. Maddening crowds and pushing and shoving that I have personally seen in shops don't speak to me of love, maybe that's just because I hate shopping. The inability to find a single spare weekend between October and New Years to just do nothing and rest doesn't speak to me of peace either, but of busyness and burnout and tiredness.


It has got to the stage where for the last few years I have had to be very careful to make sure that I do not let the busyness and the craziness of Christmas and everything I have to do to prepare for it rob me of joy.


And so we're going to go and look at the Christmas story, and we're going to look at the emotions that the story fulfilled, the longings that it met in the hearts of those involved. and we are going to look at how God can fill our longings for these things too.


Ecclesiastes chapter one verses 9 and 10 says

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.


Human emotions are common to all of us and they haven't changed over thousands of years. The love we want, the joy we need, the hope that keeps us alive were just as important then as they are now. We need the same things that the people in the story needed on that first Christmas. Where is your hope going to come from this Christmas? How are your joy levels right now? Are you feeling that heavenly peace?


So this week, the first thing I want to talk about is something that is very close to my heart, and that is hope.

I believe that hope keeps us alive. Yes, I mean that quite literally. Without hope the human heart withers. Without hope the will to live fades. People with hope can do amazing things, and thank God that hope is hard to kill.


I love that the hope candle is the first candle of advent. Advent is the start of the church year but it is the end of a long period of waiting. It is the start of the church year because it is the start of a new time, a new era, a new chapter, a new hope.

The people had been waiting for thousands of years for the long promised Messiah. The prophets had foretold what life would be like when he came.

And so we have those words from the prophet Isaiah: Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.


These words summed up all the hopes that the people of Israel had, and could possibly have for the one who would come in the name of the Lord. They spoke of peace, power, prosperity, justice, righteousness, and the restoration of the Kingdom. little did they understand that it would be a Kingdom far beyond anything they had ever known.

Even in pain and in suffering, the people of God still put their hope in him.

In the Psalms:


Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.


Psalm 62:5-6

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. 6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.


Famously, in Isaiah:


but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

And God did not disappoint them.


He promised them that even right back then, even when they were in the midst of exile, in these well-known words from Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


We need hope too. So many of us are rejoicing at the moment because we are going through a season of growth here at St Marks literally. We have three young couples in our church expecting children in the next nine months! I talk about this all the time but that suggests to me that they have some sort of hope for the future that they would even contemplate bringing children into this world. This is not an act of hopelessness.


We have hope for our church, for our town, our district.

We are talking about where we might like to be in the next ten years, the next 20 years, as a St Marks congregation, as a South West Qld Lutheran Parish.

Even in what have been dark and difficult times, these are not things that we could do if we did not have hope that we will be here in ten or 20 years as a church!

Our hope is in the one who is coming. Not like that first Christmas when he came as a baby, but we certainly are waiting for the same one! We are waiting for him to return.


Advent tells us that he has heard he cries of his people, and his plans have been put into motion. They are not finished yet, we are in that “Now, but not yet” time, when we wait for him to finally come and put an end to all this, and take us to be with him somewhere much better.


Until then, we wait in sure and certain hope. And we give thanks to God because we know that just like he did for the people of old, so he will keep his word to us, and he will come.

Our hope is not in vain. Jesus is coming.

Amen.

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