Christmas of Hope
s boomers, our parents wanted to do better for us than was done for them, but they couldn't quite afford it yet. As Christmases continued the image of “A Big American Family Christmas” grew and grew. Things got out of hand and Christmas was turned into a celebration of consumerism. Recently, there seems to be a genuine desire among young families to try to recapture the emphasis on Christ's birth and the exchange of meaningful gifts as a way of recalling how the Father gave His Son to grab our hearts with His message of love, hope and new life.
The message of the first Christmas is one of hope for the entire world. Salvation has come to us, first from the Jews of the Old Testament and then to the Gentiles who include everybody else.
It all began with Jesse, the father of David the Shepherd Boy who defeated the Philistine Giant and saved his nation, and was soon crowned as Israel 's first King. David, son of Jesse, was a precursor for the Messiah who would later become the King Martyr, giving his life to save all people.
Isaiah prophesied that “A new bud shall shoot out of the old knurled and perceived to be dead branch of Jesse and a Savior shall come, and the Jews took hope in that promise.” (Is. 11, free) Amid many reasons to throw in the towel the Jews kept their movement alive; although barely at times. But there was hope. And that hope was God's temporary bridge that kept the Messianic Vision alive. The Jews were expectant when the Shepherd heard the Angels singing the Good News of Great Joy to All People. The far away Wise Men from the East, possibly highly educated Zoroastrians from Persia, today's Iran, heard the message of hope that a new King who would be their King too; and thus, they came to worship Him. They had, in all likelihood, read Isaiah and had felt a surge of hope.
And then the baby was born. He was not what folks were expecting, although they did not know what to expect. But, why not a baby? Didn't we all come into the world as babies? Everybody loves a baby. Babies bring a renewed hope. Especially the Babe of Bethlehem !
the God of hope
It was the experience of the New Testament Church, of which the Church at Rome, the one to whom today's epistle was addressed, which felt that the spreading of the story about the coming of this universal king was made possible as the whole Church, as individual believers were empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, today's Church is dependant upon the same guidance, direction and empowerment. This is true of every authentically orthodox local church and denomination. As long as we are seeking the leading of the Spirit of God our doctrine and theology will remain pure.
For example, the Church has always expressed the truth that our ultimate goal is to win the world. The Holy Spirit leads all of us to believe that our responsibility to proclaim the “Good News of Great Joy to All People,” to exactly that target audience, “All People.” This truth is as old as the Angelic Message to the Shepherds abiding in their fields. As a result, every church welcomes all who step up to the doorway. Indeed we feel led to go out and recruit them. Therefore, when churches run ads on television, and in other news media, inviting all people to visit our churches we mean all people. We should actively be praying that more and more will show interest and show up for worship and also respond to the invitation to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, and lead a changed new life filled with hope and peace, as our text says.
If we had done a better job of following the direction of the Holy Spirit in evangelizing the world, our world would not be in the mess we are in now. We seemed satisfied with the Americas and Europe and we faltered when it came time to evangelize Asia and Arabia and much of Africa .
Our “abounding in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” still includes the lost continents. The great challenge of today's Church is to find a way to win the rest. We can offer none other than a Christmas free to the whole world.
The Spirit of Christmas challenges us as “Fishers of People,” to find new oceans, lakes and ponds that have never been fished in, instead of continuing to fish in pools that have been fished out for years.
There are folks out there who are hungry to hear our message of Christmas hope!
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor