Among my favorite books are C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I have read them and re-read them several times. Maybe you are familiar with them. They were made into movies that also became popular several years ago. These little books were intended for children but they contain volumes of truth that will encourage and entertain readers of all ages.
In this series of fantasy stories, Lewis introduces us to four children who find their way into a wondrous land through the back of a magical wardrobe in their uncle’s house. It is called Narnia and it is a kingdom where animals talk and where Kings and Queens govern from tower-filled castles.
When the children first enter this land they discover that it is under the control of the wicked White Witch who rules with an iron fist and a cold heart. As the story unfolds, one of the children, Lucy, meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus. He describes the White Witch to Lucy by saying, “Why it is she that has got all of Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and…NEVER CHRISTMAS; think of that!” Now let’s grant Mr. Tumnus’ request for a moment and consider that phrase, “…always winter….and never Christmas…”
Doesn’t that sound dismal? And, has life ever seemed like that to you? …..like one long winter of cold, snow-covered ground, trees with leaf-less branches, constantly clouded skies….with no Christmas….nothing to look forward to….no light of hope?
All people thirst for hope in life. It is what keeps us going. When we are trapped in a tunnel of misery, hope points to the light at the end. When we are over-worked and exhausted, hope gives us fresh energy. When we are tempted to quit, hope keeps us going. When we lose our way and confusion blurs the destination, hope dulls the edge of panic. When life forces us to sit back and wait, hope give us the patience to trust.
Theologian Emil Brunner once said it this way: “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life. Take oxygen away and death occurs, take hope away and humanity is constricted through lack of breath.”
Webster defines hope as, “Desire accompanied by expectation of, or belief in, fulfillment.” And, how vital is that expectation! Without it, prisoners of war languish and die. Students get discouraged and drop out of school. THE REDSKINS fall into a slump and continue to lose. Without this expectation, addicts return to their habits. Marriage partners decide to divorce. Inventors, artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and even preachers, lose their creativity. You see, hope isn’t merely a nice option that helps us temporarily clear a hurdle that we encounter on life’s road. Hope is essential to our survival.
And perhaps this is part of the wonder of Christmas for the Christmas event reminds us that hopes can come true.
What kind of world was Christ born into? It was the time between the testaments. Silent times where the people had not heard a prophecy for many years. It was a time of uncertainty. It was a time of persecution and suffering. It was a time of great darkness. I guess you could say that the dark world Christ was born into was a world that seemed to be without hope.
But there was hope! The prophecy was clear. Isaiah had foretold it. It’s right there in Isaiah 60:1-3: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
And in the fullness of time, into the darkness of the earth’s night a new light dawned and people took notice. A star, a heavenly light appeared in the east. It must have been a brilliant light, indeed. Sages, Magi, Wise Men saw this star from afar and followed where it led.
And so the Wise Men came. As it says in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-2: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
The Wise Men followed the star hoping. They were hoping to find a newborn king. Hoping, wishing, dreaming that their journey would lead to a princely palace or kingly hall. Instead, it led them to a humble home of a carpenter. There they found a simple peasant couple.
Were the hopes of the Wise Men left unfulfilled? Were their dreams dashed?
We live our lives on a journey, just like the Wise Men. We hope for the best. Our dream and desire is that everything would turn out all right. We want a happy existence that is pain free, trouble free and problem free. That’s our hope, our dream, our desire. But sometimes real life gets in the way of our hopes and dreams. Difficulties come our way. Troubles await us, if not now, possibly, probably in the future. One day we might be living a happy-go-lucky, trouble-free life and then, the next day, trouble strikes. We should have expected the unexpected, but we didn’t.
Sisters and brothers, it’s then, when reality hits us square in the jaw, that we must realize that the star that shined so brightly over Bethlehem town was a STAR OF HOPE.
So, what exactly is hope? For most people, hope is a dream, a wish, a desire…perhaps even a fantasy.
The Star of Hope that shined that first Christmastide over Bethlehem shines with a hope that is SO very different. The Star of Hope beams not with a wish, a desire or a dream. It shines brightly with the kind of hope that is sure and certain.
And isn’t that exactly what we need today? The world we live in today is not all that unlike the world Jesus was born into. Just this week in the news I saw story after story that shows a world walking in darkness. You hear words like sexual assault, gang rape, Al Qaeda, bank robberies, child abuse, shootings.
What is happening to us? What in the world is going on? Why is there so much violence today? Some blame it on the breakdown of the family. Some point the finger at the media. Others blame it on drugs; others on the morally permissive society in which we live; still others point to the easy availability of guns as the culprit. The problem can be summed up in one word, sin! It is sin that eclipses the Light of the World. It is sin that brings with it a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
There are many who are walking in darkness. There are many who are poor and persecuted. There are countless people groping in the darkness, searching for solutions to their problems; answers to their questions, hope for the future.
Everything around us may seem dark. Nothing seems to make sense. And at times like that it is easy to lose hope.
But there is hope! There’s light at the end of the tunnel and there is hope. And what is that hope?
Our hope is in Jesus Christ, the Star of Hope. He was born into this dark world to be our light, our hope. Ultimately the victory will be his. He is the light of the world, and the darkness of the world doesn’t have a chance against him. Remember the first verses of John’s Gospel we read last week: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” That is the promise of Christmas. That is the promise of hope.
Long ago, in a time of great darkness, God promised to send a light that would shine on everyone living in land of the shadow of death.
As Isaiah the prophet said in Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
That is God’s promise to us. That is the promise of hope. And his promised has been fulfilled in the one who is called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
This promise of hope was fulfilled in the birth of Christ. Christmas is the dawn of hope. We can go on living because hope has come into the world in the form of a baby in a manger. We can keep on going because light has dawned into this dark world.
What does this hope through Jesus Christ do for us?
Hope gives us joy. Because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ we can live lives of true joy. This doesn’t mean that we will not face times of struggle, trials, and difficulties. We may not be able to rejoice for all things but because of the hope that we have of His presence with us we can rejoice in all things because we know that God is with us and will see us through.
Hope gets us out of bondage. There is nothing that shackles us any more than a sense of hopelessness. But the hope that comes to us through Jesus Christ breaks the chains that bind us and set us free to go on living even in the face of struggle, suffering and death.
Hope gives us peace. No matter how stormy the seas of our life get if Christ is with us we can be at peace and rest in the hope that he brings.
Hope energizes us to keep on going. The hope that we have through Jesus Christ is our source of strength. It is a source that is so deep and so rich that it can never be exhausted.
Christmas promises that the God who came to his people comes again, the God who has forgiven will forgive again, the God who has saved will save again, and the God who has been with his people will be with them again. Through the times of darkness or for whatever storm, darkness, or trouble you face, there is hope.
Can I ask you, do you know that hope in your heart? None of us knows what lies ahead for us in the future. But there is one thing we can know for sure. Because of Christmas and the blessed event of Christ’s coming we can face whatever life brings our way with hope. Our today and every single one of our tomorrows are in the hands of Christ. We trust in him. He is our star of hope.
Let me end with this. Indeed, hope is what Jesus “did” when he came to the hopeless world to be our living hope. Through His life of love, His sacrificial death and His victorious resurrection, He brought sure and lasting hope for us. Now, as a people filled with hope in Christ, hope is what WE do in his name.
Here is what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 15:12-13: “Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Let me read that again because it is so powerful…“‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The Root of Jesse sprang up that first Christmas in Bethlehem and people found hope in Him. The same is true today. Because of Jesus, we are full of hope. We are overflowing with hope! And we are called to share that hope with the world around us. Jesus Christ, The star of hope must shine through our lives.
When the noted writer Robert Louis Stevenson was a little boy, he was sitting one night by a window in his room, watching a lamplighter light the streetlights below. When his mother came in and asked him what he was doing, young Robert answered, “I’m watching a man make holes in the darkness.” Every time we lift up Jesus Christ, every time we stand tall for Jesus Christ, every time we live in the Spirit of Christ or share the truth of Christ with others, every time we offer love or care or compassion to others we are punching holes in the darkness!
Remember that old Chinese proverb: “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Indeed so. Two thousand years ago, God lighted the candle and sent it into the world. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, the Star of hope was born. God gave us something that was not a mere dream or a fantasy or wishful thinking. It is sure and certain. God gave us the Star of Hope.
His name is Jesus. His hope is still shining brightly in places even in places like the Middle East, Ferguson, New York, Washington, and in right here in Sterling today. And it is our part to walk in that light, and live in that light, and share that light with our dark world until He comes again.
Sermon Topics: advent