First lesson in the Christmas Rush sermon series. Embrace Hope In God’s Promise. The text is Jeremiah 33:14-16.
Now that the turkey is consumed, like magic we become professional consumers overnight. Many people shopped on Black Friday, but in the stores this year purchases were down 6%. What was up was online shopping – setting a record 7.4 billion dollars in sales. Black Friday is just the beginning – there is scarcely time to breathe in the coming 24 days before Christmas. How do we avoid letting the Christmas Rush keep us from missing the message of Christmas?
That’s kind of what Advent is about – a time to slow down and experience the season of expectation as we wait. Themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Texts of Advent are found in the prophets. Theirs were the voices heard by God’s people until a time of quiet waiting … 400 years from the time of Malachi until the strong voice of John in the wilderness preparing the way of the Messiah.
Truth of Advent is often lost in the shuffle of holiday get-togethers, shopping, travel, and the rush of Christmas. Advent calls us to not be so caught up in the Christmas Rush that we fail to remember two important truths:
-God’s people waited expectantly for Messiah to come.
-God’s people await for Messiah to come again.
Our first strategy in guarding our hearts during the Christmas Rush is to Embrace Hope In God’s Promise.
“Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration— “when I will fulfill the good promise that I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch to sprout up for David, and he will administer justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely, and this is what she will be named: The Lord Is Our Righteousness.Jeremiah 33:14-16, CSB
Embrace Hope When Feeling Hopeless
In the Christmas Rush we can forget that many are not feeling it. Whether through loss of loved ones, financial struggle, family issues or struggling with depression, the Christmas Rush can intensify our feelings of hopelessness. Sometimes people even cope with those feelings by spiraling credit cards or abusing substances to numb the pain.
“The gap between what we have and what we wish we had is wider and deeper at Holiday time. Many people may not be dreaming of a White Christmas as much as hoping for a Christmas that isn’t blue.”Dr. Susan Rako
Our text comes at a time when there wasn’t much hope. Jeremiah is often called ‘The Weeping Prophet’ for a good reason. He began his ministry around age 20 and continued for 40 years. Born during the reign of Josiah, he prophesied during Judah’s darkest days. In Jeremiah 32 Jeremiah spoke truth to the King Zedekiah and as a result was placed into prison. From that prison Jeremiah called upon Judah to turn back to God in order to avoid the judgement that was coming. Rather than respond in humility and repentance, Judah ignored God’s commandments and Jeremiah’s pleas. The oncoming captivity by Babylon was inevitable as God was rejected and ignored. Jeremiah was in a hopeless situation and had no hopes that Judah would listen … but he didn’t lost hope because he believed in a God of Hope!
Embrace Hope for the Coming Days (Jeremiah 33:14)
Within the tear-filled prophecies of Jeremiah, God sends a message of grace and hope. He has not ignored His people, and there is an answer coming.
It’s easy just to say “It’ll get better” – and sometimes that’s true. For the Christian, we know that there is something ahead that is going to counter all of the struggles we have in this life. Jesus is Coming. That’s Jeremiah’s message – Messiah is coming! And it’s our message as well. Old song “Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above Him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.” We have hope because Jesus is present and Jesus is coming – and whether we find answers in the meantime or not, ultimately God’s promises will be kept.
There doesn’t seem to be much hope for the world today – but we need to hear the message of Jeremiah afresh and know that God is still the keeper of His promises … and that’s what fills our hearts with hope today. In the Christmas Rush we will buy into the seasonal activities that are supposed to bring us joy. When they do not, don’t give up hope.
Embrace Hope When Life Seems Unfair (Jeremiah 33:15)
We can believe in a future hope to come, but what about now? In an article called The Most Wonderfully Painful Time of the Year, Kelly Flanagan relates a Christmas memory: Several years ago, when my son Quinn was in kindergarten, he opened a present on Christmas morning, and he was not happy with what he saw. He set it aside, looked up at me, and declared, “We’re gonna need a receipt for that one.” I made a mental note to start working on gratitude with him as soon as the wrapping paper was all picked up. Yet, at the same time, I heard in his words the ordinary wish of the masses of humanity: We are given this gift called life and, oftentimes, as we unwrap it, there are parts of it we would like to return. .… faith in the future does not erase our pain about the present.”
God’s answer to the unfairness of life is still Jesus. I will cause a Righteous Branch to sprout up for David, and he will administer justice and righteousness in the land. That Righteous Branch is a name that is used for Jesus. “Righteous Branch” is a favorite metaphor of Isaiah and Zechariah.
In some ways that still puts us looking to the future coming of Christ when all will be made new. But it also reminds us that the risen Christ is living now in our lives and brings hope and light into our lives we would not have otherwise. Embrace Hope when feeling hopeless, for the coming days, when life is unfair…
Embrace Hope in the Security of Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 33:16)
I’m sure this message seemed strange to the people hearing Jeremiah. On the brink of disaster from invading countries. Babylon would overtake Judah and it would be a long time before the exile was over. Hope can be a strange word for us today as well.
“As we look around our world, terrorism, racism, greed, discord, and disease dominate the news. We are a human race plagued with many struggles, and often these show up in our own families. And, it’s not just the world “out there”, but also the person I look at in the mirror that causes me to pause before placing my faith in mankind or hoping in perfect family gatherings.”Melissa Kruger
But there was hope during the exile and there is today because God promised there would be. Five hundred years after God saved the Judeans from their Babylonian exile, a child would be born, and his parents would name him “Yeshua,” or “Jesus,” meaning “God saves.”(Wrenn) Do we have to wait 500 years to find hope?
Hope in God’s Promise: Jesus Brings Hope
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.1 Peter 1:13
Jesus gives hope now in our salvation. Have you given your life to Christ? Jesus gives hope now in our assurance. Are we living the life He leads us to live? Serving and loving others can take our eyes off of our troubles and give us opportunity to serve Jesus by serving others. When Jesus comes He will make all things new. Until then, we lift the burdens of others while we wait. In that way our own hopelessness will be redirected toward our hope in Jesus.
If for you the Christmas Rush is accompanied by hopelessness, unfairness, and sadness, remember to embrace the hope that comes from God.
The time when God’s people waited for the Messiah was sometimes filled with disappointment and despair, but the prophets kept pointing to hope.
Our Salvation and Security are in Jesus. Let us not forget this in the Christmas Rush.
“Especially in this season of Advent, we speak words of hope. In the midst of darkness, light is about to break in. In the midst of despair, hope erupts. After long waiting, a branch will sprout. The complete fulfillment of God’s promises has not yet happened, but it is coming. Such is Advent faith, and Advent hope.”Katherine Schifferdecker