SER # 38V
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
COLOR: BLUE OR PURPLE
SUNDAY DECEMBER 1ST 2019
TEXTS: MATTHEW 1: 18 – 23
THEME: CHRISTMAS GIFT THAT WON’T BREAK – HOPE
Today we start the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the beginning of Christian Calendar made up of six seasons (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy week and Pentecost). Advent is celebrated before Christmas and is usually four Sundays before Christmas Day. Advent simply means a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus our savior. It is therefore right to say that as Christian we should not loose the purpose of this time by getting too busy preparing for other things. It is always easy for one to be busy with thanksgiving and Christmas shopping then we get so stretched that we miss the joy of receiving the new king.
Part of the business this time is try and buy gifts for the people we love and there is nothing wrong with that. If we are able to make someone happy by the gift we give them it is fine.
Those who have experience in buying children gifts of toys know how quickly they can get broken even before the day is over and one get disappointed. Sometimes we are so excited with the gift we receive but after a while we have no interest.
This year I would like us to explore some new kind of gifts that don’t break of go bad or out of fashion. In doing this we will be borrowing ideas from an Advent study book by a retired Methodist clergy James W. Moore (Christmas Gifts that Won’t Break by James W. Moore Abingdon Press 2017).
In exploring this theme, we will deal with four major gifts that won’t break – Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. On the Christmas eve we will deal with Christ as the main gift given to us by God.
This Sunday we will focus on the gift we have called hope. Hope is the inner engine that keeps us positive as well as in anticipation of something good coming. When we lose hope, we have lost all Hope keep us looking ahead waiting even when we do not know when. The story of the father of the prodigal son is a good illustration of what hope does. He kept waiting and looking down the road hoping one day he was going to see his some coming back home. His hope was fulfilled when he final shown up and the father had to run to go met him. “So, he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he run to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15: 20). As we get to listen to the story of Joseph and the Angel and his decision to take Mary as his wife and eventually Jesus being born, we can see Jesus coming to the world as a gift of hope:
- A Gift of Hope – Wall Breaker: The word Jesus also means Joshua in Hebrew. Among other things that we remember Joshua with was how the walls of Jericho came down through his leadership. There was therefore among the Israelites for the victory. Hope that came through Jesus was to break the walls that used to divide us and keeps on dividing us. In many instances even today, we find still these divides. The Temple was a good example of a stone divider during Jesus time. At the Temple was the first wall that kept the foreigners and gentiles away, the second wall was to keep the women in their place. The third wall was where all the Jewish men would stay and the fourth wall was for the priests assembled. After that was the curtain that covered the Holy of Holies and only the high Priest would go there once a year to offer special sacrifices. Even then they had to tie a rope on his leg to pull him back in case he collapsed there for nobody else was allowed to get in there. Jesus therefore came to bring these walls down. Today we experience different kind of walls that Jesus is more than ready to bring them down. Jesus brings down the walls of: hatred, hostility, prejudice, privilege, and all kind of ism that we experience. It is this gift of hope that we can hold on.
- A Gift of Hope – Healing. Our hope is Christ is our healer. We live in a sick world. Sick physically, socially, spiritually, psychologically and emotionally. We are people of faith and therefore be believe also in the prayer of faith. The hope of getting healed all kind of sickness is affirmed by the coming our savior Jesus Christ. The blind beggar had faith with the son of David to heal him so was the woman with the flow of blood and many others. The same promise is true to us to day and that why we live in this hope of getting healed by Jesus. When it comes to physical sickness Jesus reminds us of the power of prayer of faith. “Is any of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13-14). There is hope of having healed relationships, friendships at home and in our communities.
- A Gift of Hope – Refuge: Hope is our refuge at the time of trouble and when the ground around us is shaking’ this refuge is a promise given to us by God. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). We know that in the LORD there is hope. The writer of Psalm has several passages to encourage us or remind us that God is our refuge. “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2). Our hope then is build on Jesus Christ who provides a place where we can get shelter at times of difficulties. The hope of knowing that there is place to turn to which is Jesus is important. We can’t afford not to claim this gift of hope where Christ become our hiding place. This Christmas we like to receive the gift of hope that reminds us Christ is our refuge. We also know that Christ is the only solid rock that we can stand on or build our lives on for all other ground is sinking sand. We have heard of farm accidents where people are swallowed in the bins because there is no solid ground there.
- A Gift of Hope – Salvation: Jesus promise of salvation begins while we are I this world. Through salvation we are reconciled to our God. Jesus came to deliver us from the bondage of sin to the new hope of full life in Jesus Christ. “Salvation is found in no one else, there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Act 4:12). Here we se that the name of Jesus bring that hope that we will be saved and delivered safely to our creator. We need to be saved from our sinful nature that we possess. We need to remember that we might be physically alive but spiritually dead. The way to live spiritually is to accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. That why we live in this hope that when we turn to Jesus, he is willing to take us back. Salvation is for all who are willing to call on the name of the Lord. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Having this hope of salvation makes us walk with confidence for we know the one on our side (Jesus) is greater than what the world offers.