Sunday, December 02, 2018 - 9 AM

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:59
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A Light of HOPE – Luke 21:25-28 (34-36) Bascomb UMC / December 2, 2018 / 9AM & 11AM Focus: The Ultimate HOPE we have in God evidenced by God’s action to redeem creation in Jesus and the promise of his return. Function: To focus believers on the discipline of waiting that we embrace at Advent because our HOPE is in God and God’s timing for us. 5 Purpose Outcomes of the Church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Service (show the Hope Bumper Video) Luke 21:25–28 CEB 25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, there will be dismay among nations in their confusion over the roaring of the sea and surging waves. 26 The planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world. 27 Then they will see the Human One coming on a cloud with power and great splendor. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.” Did you hear the HOPE in that text? Or did you focus on the “dismay,” and the “confusion” – the “fainting” the “fear and “foreboding” over what is coming on the world (video clip: Ghostbusters - Biblical Proportions). Dogs and Cats living together! Oh NO! Well, the truth of what Jesus is saying here had already happened (or was just about to happen) when this gospel was first written down. The Romans were attempting to put a statue of the emperor inside the temple! Things were coming to a boil. This is chapter 21 of Luke’s gospel. Holy Week material. Jesus was in Jerusalem teaching everyday on the temple steps. Complaining about widows having to put their last pennies in the treasury, pitching a “hissy fit” over money-changers and cleansing the temple…. He now had death threats against him by the Jewish leadership. By the time this gospel was being heard, the Romans had most likely torn their newly renovated and upgraded temple apart brick by brick! What’s my point? The “end of the world” comes over and over and over again! Now, one day a FINAL “end of the world” will come - but looking for doom and gloom is a distraction from the mission of God! The point of that text is to “stay alert, stand up straight and look up! Your redemption is near. There’s your HOPE. I’ve checked the statistics and guess what? The mortality rate for humans is holding steady at 100% - the end of the world as YOU and I know it is definitely coming, but God’s got you – that’s the Good News! Did you know that when there’s a death in the family they do not call upon their banker, their hairdresser, or their auto mechanic – they call the preacher. Without FAITH there really is no HOPE is there? So while we are still living, how do we follow the star on a journey of HOPE? How can we purposefully live this season of anticipation in light of HOPE? I’d like to suggest it starts with (3 slides) #1 acknowledging the darkness around us, #2 embracing the wait, and #3 committing to the journey. 1. Acknowledge the Darkness We were in the mountains - away from all this artificial light and suddenly the sky was full of stars! God chose a star to guide us to Bethlehem. Throughout the Bible God uses creation, the wonders of nature to reveal God’s glory to us. “Heaven is declaring God’s glory” Psalm 19:1 (CEB). God’s glory is seen in the stars. But the thing about stars is they can’t be seen in the light. They are seen best on the darkest of nights, when there is no moonlight, away from the lights of the city. The darker the setting, the brighter the starlight. Holiday glitz can artificially light our lives. There are plenty of flashing distractions to help you avoid the darkness within. But facing the darkness and calling it what it is allows us to see true light. Be honest about the darkness - darkness in the world and darkness within our own hearts. Mature disciples are not deceived - we live in a world full of darkness and fear, but it is into that great darkness that an even greater star appears to light the way. Nothing can rescue us except God and the beauty of the journey of hope is that God shows up in what seems to be the darkest hour. Jesus entered our darkness that first Christmas and the Spirit will fan even the smallest spark of hope within us. I caution here and say two things – FIRST – it’s not all about you. Job learned it would have to be enough to know God’s presence in his suffering and trust in God’s greater plan. SECOND – HOPE is not an instant process….so…. 2. Embrace the Wait Who likes waiting? Does anyone like waiting? “I wants what I wants when I wants it!” I even prayed for patience, but it did not come fast enough! Yet we live in a fast-paced culture. I get impatient with my so-called “smart phone” because it takes a second to go into space and back before I know my Facebook status. But Israel knew all about the long wait. Genesis to Jesus took 4,000 years and we’ve only lived half that time since. We could easily wait 2,000 more years. Advent trains us to wait. We wait to celebrate Jesus’s birth, we also wait for our true hope to be fulfilled when Jesus comes again. We still live in the space between the already and the not yet. Our challenge is to embrace the waiting with HOPE—and to allow that HOPE to carry us through the wait - HOPE fuels our faith. “Faith is the reality of what we HOPE for, the proof of what we don’t see.” Hebrews 11:1 (CEB) Allow the Advent season to serve as a reminder of the confidence we have as we wait in HOPE for what we do not yet see. Seek the light of the star, no matter how faintly it might first appear to you. Draw HOPE from faith’s growing light. 3. Commit to the Journey But is your faith growing as we journey? The images of waiting and the image of being on a journey are not the same. One looks like sitting around and the other involves moving. The concept of waiting for God is called active waiting moving forward on our journey because it involves God’s mission. Henri Nouwen is an Anglican priest, a professor, writer, and theologian. He wrote: “Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it” (Henri Nouwen in Waiting for God). What an excellent description of Advent! Waiting means being active, present in the moment while still anticipating where we are going. That’s not easy! It takes discipline – the core word of Disciple. That’s a REAL present we should all give. The day-to-day challenge of getting up and doing what you MUST DO to follow after Jesus, build the kingdom here on earth, and live in relationship with others. The psalmist encouraged us to: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD” Psalm 31:24 (NIV). So what does that look like in real life? Jesus told us in the rest of the text today: 34 “Take care that your hearts aren’t dulled by drinking parties, drunkenness, and the anxieties of day-to-day life. Don’t let that day fall upon you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. It will come upon everyone who lives on the face of the whole earth. 36 Stay alert at all times, praying that you are strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand before the Human One” Luke 21:34–36 (CEB). Hope is about waiting, but that waiting involves a commitment to being present in our journey of obedience. Alert, sober (the opposite of self-medicated)—these are words of expectation and active anticipation. I’m not condemning parties, but long ago at a church far-far away, Pam and I went with my senior pastor and his wife to a Christmas Sunday School Party and the host answered the door with a belt of beers around his neck! Just be careful of your witness this season. We are about building the kingdom – right? Well, the good news in all this is…. wherever you are on your journey, keep following God’s light. Sure, we have four weeks of Advent that lead to Christmas, but that is human-created calendar timing, not God’s timing. Advent is not about a deadline, not about finding all the answers or checking all the boxes. Just show up and be willing to follow God’s lead. Wherever you are, you are not too late. God’s timing is perfect. And He wants to fill your heart with hope for the ultimate healing and life in the Human One - the Son of God. That is a reason for hope that will fuel your journey through Advent and far beyond. Prayer: God, thank You that You enter into the darkness of our world and fill our hearts with light. Help us during this season of Advent to live with expectant HOPE as we wait for the birth of Christ at Christmas and for the complete fulfillment of HOPE when Christ comes again. Amen. BENEDICTION: “May the God of HOPE fill you with all [mature fruit of the Holy Spirit like…] joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13 (CEB).
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