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The Promise of Hope

How many people here are planning to have an Advent Calendar of some sort this Christmas? If you don’t know what an advent calendar is, basically, it’s a countdown for Christmas! Its kinda like a regular calendar except it usually only has 24 or 25 days on it and each day is printed on a little door that opens to reveal something on the other side.

Sometimes’s just a little picture or saying or maybe even a Bible verse behind each door. But most often there is a little gift inside. For example, growing up, we often had an advent calendar that had little chocolates behind each door. More recently, I know several people who have had lego advent calendars with little mini legos sets behind each door. But the idea is you start on December 1st, and then each day, you get to open the corresponding door and get the little prize inside! And of course, the biggest door with the biggest prize is always on the 25th – so it’s a great way to build anticipation for Christmas.

And as a church, we do a similar thing. Of course, we only meet together once a week, so we don’t have a daily countdown, but we do have a weekly countdown. We count down the four weeks before Christmas, which of course starts today.

But instead of an advent calendar, we have an Advent wreath – which has five candles – one for each week, plus one final candle for Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent we light a candle – not only to build anticipation for Christmas, but also to remind us of what Christmas is all about.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the shopping and the festivities and the family gatherings – and all those other good things that come with Christmas – but in all that activity – we often neglect to put much thought into what we’re actually celebrating.

Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! That’s why His name is right in the title – Christmas – or “CHRIST”mas!

And so these Advent candles – each reminding us of a different aspect of the true meaning of Christmas – are a great way to help us remember that Jesus truly is the reason for the season.

That’s why, over these next five weeks, we’re going to pause our series going through the Book of Acts, and instead we’re just going to talk about the meaning behind each of these candles. What is Christmas really all about? And chances are, I’m not going to say anything that most of us haven’t already heard many times before! But if you’re like me, we could probably use the reminder! 

This morning we have already heard that this first candle is called the Prophet’s Candle or the Candle of Hope.  We also mentioned that over 1/4 of the Bible is prophetic in nature. And you might find that a little bit surprising. I mean, there is a lot of stuff in the Bible – history, letters, poetry, songs…. Does prophecy really make up more than 25% of entire the Bible?

I would say, without a doubt! You see, prophecy isn’t just those strange visions in Daniel and Revelation about the end times! Nor are they simply the Old Testament passages of doom and gloom from guys like Isaiah and Jeremiah. 

No, to put it simply, prophecy includes every promise of God. It’s everything God says He will do or that He will make happen. And the Bible is full of the promises of God – right from Genesis all the way through to Revelation! And all of that – even the messages of doom and gloom in Isaiah and Jeremiah – are intended to give us hope. They are intended to point us to Jesus.

And so this morning, I want to go through and just remind us of some of God’s promises and how Jesus has fulfilled or will yet fulfill each and every single one of them.

I want to start in the beginning. One of the very first promises of God in the Bible – and perhaps one of the most important promises of God in the Bible is found in Genesis chapter 3.

Now just to give you the context here, in Genesis 1 & 2, we read about how God created a beautiful and wonderful world for mankind. It was absolutely amazing! Everything God created was declared by God to be good. There was no ‘bad’. At this point, sin and death were not part of the equation. There was no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no broken relationships – it really was heaven here on earth. And for Adam & Eve – the pinnacle of God’s creation – life was as good as it could possibly get. 

But as we continue reading in Genesis 3, we see how Adam & Eve rejected God and they chose instead to believe Satan’s lie that they could be like God himself and as a result, sin and all it’s terrible consequences entered the world.

And this was a disaster beyond anything we could imagine! All of God’s good creation was now tainted with sin. Life would become very difficult and filled with pain. In fact, mankind – who was created in God’s own image, created to embody God’s goodness – was now sinful and selfish. Their relationship with God – the very source of life – was severed and man began to die and decay – both physically and spiritually. This really was the most devastating disaster in all of history. 

But this is where we get the first promise of God – a promise of hope. In the aftermath of all of this, God speaks to the serpent and says in Genesis 3:15…

15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Now at first glance, that might not seem very significant. It just sounds like mankind and serpent-kind weren’t going to get along very well after this. But as you read through the rest of Scriptures, you begin to realize that there was a lot more to this statement than meets the eye. This was actually a fantastic promise of hope.

Even though Adam & Eve, through their one act of disobedience and rebellion against God – had set the world down a path of sin, selfishness and suffering – and ultimately destruction, God had a plan to intervene and make things right again.

This promise that an offspring of the woman who would strike the serpents head and that the serpent would strike his heel – this was all a promise fulfilled in Jesus.

If you jump ahead a few thousand years – this is what we read in Matthew 1:18.

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”

Matthew 1:18-23

Several thousand years after Adam & Eve lived and died, God was going to send His Son, Jesus, to be born to the great great great….. granddaughter of Eve – to a virgin named Mary. And this baby Jesus would grow up and live a sinless life – and allow Himself to be put to death on a cross by sinful men. The serpent striking the heel would be Jesus’ death on the cross. But the striking of the serpents head – would be Jesus’ resurrection – and His ultimate victory over Satan and sin and over death itself.

What God was telling Adam & Eve was that there was coming a day when He would undo the damage that was done. That He was going to turn things back to the way He had originally designed. Where sin and death would no longer be part of the equation of life. There will once again be no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no broken relationships. It would once again be heaven on earth.

But that didn’t all happen at the cross. Yes, the victory over sin and Satan and death was won by Jesus’ death & resurrection, but you might have noticed that things are not yet back to the ‘heaven on earth’ stage. Sin seems to be just as present, or even more so today than ever. Everyone of us here suffer the effects of sin. We suffer from the consequences of our own sin – and we suffer the consequences of the sin of others. So what’s going on?

Well, it’s important to note that striking of the serpent was only one of God’s promises. Let me show you another – this is a promise that God made to King David.

And just to give you the background for this, King David was a tremendous king – throughout his life, he had conquered pretty much all of Israel’s enemies – he had peace on every side by the end of his life – and so he wanted to build a temple to honour God and to give God a permanent home in Israel, so to speak. 

However, God told David that he was not to be the one who would build a house for God – actually, God was going to build a house for David. It says in 2 Samuel 7:8-16…

 “‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! 12 For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. 13 He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. 15 But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. 16 Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’”

2 Samuel 7:8-16

Now this last verse is significant. God promises that he will establish David’s house, his throne, and his kingdom forever.

That word ‘forever’ gives us a clue that there is more here than just what meets the eye. This is not just God telling David that there will be generation after generation after generation after generation of kings that come from David’s family. Because, as we read through the rest of the Old Testament, we see that simply isn’t the case. While David’s family does rule Israel for a long time – eventually, the Assyrians and the Babylonians end up conquering Israel and so David’s royal family doesn’t rule forever by any stretch of the imagination. So there must be more to this promise. 

Well, there is. The prophet Isaiah gives us a little more clarification. He writes in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Isaiah 9:6-7

So here we have the promise that an ancestor of David – one who is called Mighty God and Everlasting Father – will rule with fairness and justice for all eternity. So this is obviously not a dynasty of kings – this is one very unique king ruling forever. 

And this is the king that the Israelites had hoped for centuries. In the 700 years following Isaiah’s prophecy, Israel was repeatedly conquered. The were ruled by the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. The longed for God to finally fulfil his promise of a king – the prince of peace – to rule them forever from the throne of David.

Well, about 1000 years after that first promise to King David – we read about another promise in Luke 1.  I’m going to start reading at verse 26 but watch for the subtle and no so subtle hints about how this promise was going to fulfill both the promise to David as well as the prophecy from Isaiah.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:26-35

As you read through this passage, you can’t help but notice how clearly the Bible tells us that all these promises were about to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Not only was Jesus the one who would strike the serpent and conquer sin and death – but He was also the one who would rule from the throne of David forever. He would be the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – who would rule for all eternity. His kingdom will never end.

But of course, that all begs the question: Well, where is that kingdom now? And actually, Jesus’ own disciples had that question for him after his resurrection. They had realized that Jesus was indeed the one who would strike the serpent and rule for eternity. So now, after his resurrection, they assumed that obviously, Jesus would begin his rule. We read in Acts 1:6…

 6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” Acts 1:6

This is the obvious question. Here we have Jesus – the Messiah – the one that God had promised to Adam & Eve would strike the serpent, the one God had promised to King David would be king forever. 

Of course the disciples are going to ask “Is it time now? Are you going to take your rightful place as King forever? Are you going to wipe out Satan and sin and make things right again?”

You would think that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the answer would be “Yes, it’s finally time.” But no, it wasn’t. Not yet. Jesus responds in verse 7

 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Acts 1:7-11

Now I don’t know about you, but I think that if I were a disciple, I’d be just a little confused right about now. I mean, just moments ago they were standing with the Messiah – the one that God had promised literally thousands of years ago. They had seen him do miracles. They had seen him heal the sick and walk on water. They had seen him die and then rise from the dead. Clearly, Jesus was the one who would make all things right again.

And then, He leaves them. He goes back into heaven. They’re left standing there wondering – “What just happened here?”

It seemed like nothing had changed. Like Jesus hadn’t finished his job. He was supposed to be the King for all time – but they were still under the rule of the Romans. He was supposed to crush Satan’s head and do away with sin and its consequences – but there was still pain and suffering in the world. He was supposed to make all things right again – but the world seemed just as messed up as it was before. So what’s the deal?

Well, I think there’s a passage in 2 Peter that will give us some insight. 2 Peter 3:8-9

“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

2 Peter 3:8-9

The reason it seemed like Jesus hadn’t finished his job, the reason that He hadn’t wiped out sin and made everything right again – was because He was being patient for our sake. He wanted everyone to have a chance to repent of their sin and turn to Him for forgiveness and life. And that’s why He commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses – to tell people about Him everywhere! That’s why God has commissioned us to be his witnesses – to make disciples of all the nations! He wants everyone to repent – and to be saved from their sin and all it’s terrible consequences.

You see, we all follow the example of our ancestor Adam – where we believe the lie that we can be our own god. We don’t need God to tell us what to do. We believe that we are the kings of our own little kingdoms. But that’s a lie from Satan. Jesus Christ is King. He is the One and Only Lord of all. And one day, every person on earth will acknowledge that.

Paul writes about this in Philippians 2:6-11 …

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.

7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,

8     he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

As the King of Creation, Jesus has every right to force us to acknowledge him as King – but he chooses not to. Not yet anyway. We are currently in that short period of grace where we have the chance to willingly acknowledge Jesus as our king and Saviour before the time comes when we will have no choice but to acknowledge him – both as king and as judge.

God’s promise to wipe out sin still stands – He will indeed make all things right again – but just not quite yet. But God is being patient for our sake – for your sake. He wants to redeem and restore as many sinners as possible. God wants everyone to hear and accept this message of hope!

And so this morning I want to both challenge and encourage you. If you’ve put your trust in Jesus – if you’ve acknowledged him as your king and saviour – then I want to encourage you in that Jesus IS coming back. He WILL take his place as King forever. He WILL crush Satan and will remove all evil from his presence forever.  What an incredible hope!

However, those very same truths serve as a warning for those who have not put their trust in Jesus – those who have not acknowledged Him as Lord & Saviour. Jesus IS coming back. He WILL take his place as King forever. He WILL crush Satan and will remove all evil from his presence forever. 

It’s the same truth, but it carries very different consequences, doesn’t it? But the good news is, that either way – there is hope. It’s not too late. Despite our sinfulness, we can choose to accept God’s gift of forgiveness. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the baby in a manger – paid for our sins when he died on the cross. Simply by trusting in him, we can exchange our sinfulness for his righteousness.

It’s an amazing gift! And it’s available to each and every single one of us. All of us can have this incredible hope! As Jesus said, we don’t know the times and dates for His return – but his return is certain. So I would urge you to acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Saviour today!

I want to close by showing you one of my favorite passages. It’s such a wonderful reminder of hope. This is what we have to look forward to… Revelations 21 – starting at verse 3.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”

Revelation 21:1-7

This is the hope of Christmas. This is why we celebrate. Because of a little baby named Jesus born some 2000 years ago, we have the hope of eternal life with God – where there is no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain. Just everlasting abundant life with our Creator – just as God intended it. That’s a gift worth celebrating.

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