This morning, our Advent focus is hope. Too often, it seems like we confuse hope and wishing.
I hope Emily buys me a new Corvette for Christmas. Seriously…have you seen the new Corvettes? They are absolutely incredible! And, it’s totally on my Christmas list. I shared it with my family and my dad said, “Okay”, which I interpret to mean “what color would you like?” So, if my folks are watching today, I prefer the Sebring Orange, but would also be willing to accept the Elkhart Lake Blue exterior color!
As you can tell, we sometimes confuse hope with wishful thinking…
- we hope we don’t get a ticket while speeding through the streets of Fort Wayne;
- we hope there will be decent coffee at the office
- we hope there will be snow at Christmas
- we hope there will be no snow…period
- we hope we don’t get sick
- we hope our kids school stays open
- we hope our kids extracurricular activities still happen
- we hope we can get together with family and friends
- we hope the Colts win, the Pats loose…and let’s go ahead and throw Tampa Bay into the loss column too because, you know, Tom Brady
- we hope our team beats our rival for the first time since 2008 (sometimes it takes 2 OT’s!)
- we hope we get a raise or promotion
- we hope our retirement fund increases and our debts decrease
- In the midst of uncertainty – of continual adjustments – we hope for stability
- When everything is inconsistent – we hope for consistency
- we hope the pastor has a short sermon
- we hope…
That sort of hope, in many ways, is focused on self. We are hoping for things that will make our lives more comfortable or exciting. We are hoping for things that will improve the well-being of our family and circle of friends. That is an “almost” hope. It’s an incomplete hope.
An altogether hope stretches beyond self, beyond our closely-knit circles and expands to a hope that focuses on the wellbeing of all (including our enemies).
An altogether hope is hope for all people. Let’s be honest, that’s not an easy kind of hope. Hoping for the good and wellbeing of those with whom we disagree or consider an enemy is difficult work.
When we think about a Christian perspective of hope, we begin to see that hope is communal in nature. As followers in the way of Jesus, called to love God, love neighbor and even love our enemy – hope calls us to desire that all people would live into their full God given potential.
That’s why there is this communal nature of Christian hope – it’s inclusive. In striving to fully love God, neighbor and enemy, we should have an altogether hope that longs for the best for all.
At times, hope can be contagious. When I am in the midst of confusion, conflict, chaos and despair, I need the presence of hopeful people. When I am down, your sense of hope just might be the thing that helps me up.
As Christ followers, we have a call to be hope-bearers…
In the Advent story, we encounter several angelic visits. Each one begins with the words, “Do not fear.” Maybe that’s where we discover the starting point of hope. A hope that casts out fear.
The angel would say, “Do not fear” and then share the amazing Good News of hope. What did people do with the news of this hope? Mary ran to tell Elizabeth. The shepherds told anyone willing to listen. They demonstrate for us what it means to extend hope. When we experience hope…when we see hope in action…we must tell others.
Being a hope-bearer is about pointing out those areas where God is already present and active. In order to shine a light on the areas of hope in our lives, our community, our church, our world, we have to be looking for hope. So, let me ask you, are you looking for hope?
The reality is, we will find whatever it is we are looking for? If we are focused on the negative, if we are focused on worry, if we are focused on fear, if we are focused on despair, we will find it.
However, if we choose to focus on hope, guess what…we will discover hope! I don’t know about you, but I want to choose hope in the midst of despair. Even when it appears that all hope is lost…even when it seems that hope is absent…the Good News is that hope is always present. God invites us to see and choose hope! Then, when we choose hope, we must share hope!
How can we use our gifts, talents and resources to point others towards hope? How can we, as First Wayne Street United Methodist Church, share hope with all…from the suburbs to the streets…from those who seemingly have it altogether to those getting high in the alley behind our sanctuary? Will we be hope-bearers for all people?
As followers of Jesus, we place our hope in Jesus – trusting that He is the One, that He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, that He is who we believe Him to be…It’s our hope in Jesus that reminds us we are not alone.
We have a call to share this hope – the greatest hope the world has ever and will ever know – with the world around us. Hope is what can help heal any divide and overcome any division.
As I have been thinking about choosing hope, I’ve spent some time considering the idea that hope gives us the space to imagine the irrational. For example, here’s where my head has been.
2020 has been, well, I can’t use all the words I learned at Ball State in church…So, let’s just say that 2020 has presented its fair share of unique challenges and opportunities.
It is easy to head down the road of frustration and despair when reflecting on the past year. However, in choosing hope, I find myself hopefully wondering if on the other side of covid, we will see God bring about great renewal and revival in and through First Wayne Street United Methodist Church.
I’m talking about the kind of renewal and revival that causes us to have to add services because we can’t fit everyone in the building, we have to add ministries and programs to accommodate everyone who wants to participate, we have ongoing missional service projects happening throughout the greater Fort Wayne area, we have to add staff to help us keep up with the exponential growth and opportunities that lie ahead, we are a place where those who live in the suburbs and those who live on the streets worship and serve together.
I mean, that seems like crazy talk when we can’t even gather in person…And, yet, I hope and pray God makes it happen.
When we choose hope, our eyes will be opened to see the places where God is making a way where there seems to be no way.
When we choose hope, we will experience the power of God at work as the seemingly impossible becomes possible.
When we choose hope, we will discover the courage to boldly step out into risk-taking, community-focused ministry…extending God’s hope to all.
Romans 5:1-5 –Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Hope does not disappoint. Why? Because it is a gift from God.
Advent reminds us that God ushered true hope, complete hope, altogether hope into our world through the birth of a baby. Through Jesus, God offers the world a new hope. Through Jesus, we have a continual hope.
Through that New Hope and with the power of the Holy Spirit, together we can expand God’s Kingdom – sharing this new hope with all. Hope allows us to embrace what God has already done and eagerly anticipate what is yet to come.
Choose Hope; Embrace Hope; Embody Hope; Extend Hope
Where are those places in your life you need to choose and embrace hope? Where is God inviting us to embody and extend hope? May we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, be hope-bearers for all!