Advent Week 1: Hope

This week is easily my favorite week of Advent.  Today we talk about Hope.  Several of my favorite movies deal with the idea of Hope and we are going to talk about that today.  If you would like to follow along with me, follow me to Isaiah 2:2-5 and hear the Prophet Isaiah speak to the coming of the Messiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was born. 

2 In days to come

    the mountain of the Lord’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

    and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

3     Many peoples shall come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

    to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

    and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

4 He shall judge between the nations,

    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

    and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

    neither shall they learn war anymore.

5 O house of Jacob,

    come, let us walk

    in the light of the Lord!

When I read through the Old Testament, I am always interested in the story and the timeline of the Jewish people.  If you take the time to really lay out the entirety of the Israelite story throughout the Old Testament, that is, if you take out the small stories that don’t do much to change the life of the people like Job or Daniel, you can begin to get a sense of what the Jewish people were really like.  They had gone through some really terrible things.  They had been enslaved countless times.  They had wandered as nomads for more than a generation.  They have battled every neighbor they ever had.  They turned away from God so many times that it almost becomes like a joke to us in the 21st century.  God had taught them lessons and God had made them promises.  The Old Testament is definitely not a book full of sunshine and rainbows (except for the story of Noah, which literally ended with sunshine and rainbows).

However, for the Jews it all went back to their forefathers.  They continuously looked to the stories of Abraham, David, Solomon, Moses, and more.  It was in these stories that they are reminded of the promises made to them by God.  When the kingdom fell and the people were scattered, even as they slowly returned and began to re-establish themselves, they were a shadow of what they had been.  They had known the mountain-top in the time of David and Solomon, and they had known the depths of despair during the captivity and destruction of the temple. 

Despite all of this, the Jewish people maintained Hope.  That is the mindset that we must find ourselves in today to truly appreciate the coming of Christ.  We prepare for Christ’s coming by simply hoping that it will happen.  The Israelite people didn’t know when or where or even how God would fulfill his promise of the Messiah, but they had Hope that someday, somewhere, somehow, God would show up.

I wrote my newsletter article this month on this topic of Hope and if you haven’t had a chance to read it, I talk about one of the greatest movies of all time, The Lord of the Rings.  I didn’t want to repeat myself up here this morning so I want to talk about something else.  I want to talk about another one of the greatest movies of all time, Star Wars.  The original Star Wars, the one released back in 1977 was released with the subtitle “A New Hope.”  It was the fourth part of a series and that threw off so many casual movie-goers because it had never been done like that before.  In the years that have followed, we have gotten more Star Wars movies and shows than we ever imagined we ever would.  They have expanded the franchise and told the story so much more deeply than you could’ve imagined in 1977.  However, there has always been one common theme in all of the movies; Hope.  No matter which movie or show you watch, the main characters are usually up against an all-powerful force they cannot possibly overcome; but they have Hope.  There was a movie in the franchise released a couple years ago called “Rogue One.”  This movie starts the rebellion story we see in other movies.  In this movie, there is a part that really stuck out to me.  When the mission is complete, a character is asked what is was they got away with.  The answer to that was simply, “Hope.”  It wasn’t about the strategy or the plans they got from the enemy.  It wasn’t about the literal data they were able to get.  It was what those things represented to the people.

The Israelite people were conquered by Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and many other smaller countries in their history.  This small nation of people, in this remote land, found themselves up against armies and nations they could never believe they could ever become free from.  However they maintained Hope.  They believed that God would send a Messiah, and that Messiah would free them.  They had no idea that Jesus was coming to save them, not from foreign oppressors, but from sin.  Before Jesus, we quiet literally had no Hope of ever overcoming the sin of Adam and the sins of ourselves.  So while the Israelite people Hoped for a savior from the Romans, we Hope for the Savior from Death.

Getting back to our text from Isaiah today, we see it written the Hope of the Israelite people.  They wanted to “walk in your ways” and “teach us your path.”  They Hoped that the Messiah would beat swords into plowshares and that peace would reign over all of the Earth.  They wanted to “walk in the Light of the Lord.”  As we think about the coming of the Christ child this year, I want you to think if this is your attitude towards Christ today.  Do we truly want to walk in the ways and have God teach us His path?  Do we want our world to fall away and be replaced with a world of Peace?  Do we honest Hope to walk in the Light of the Lord.  Jesus tells us later, in his ministry, that he is the Light of the World.  This phrase meant something to these Israelites.  They knew when he said this that he was proclaiming himself the Messiah.  If the Israelites were serious about this phrase from Isaiah, they needed to turn from their ways and follow Jesus.  He was the path they searched for.  He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

And that is what Jesus still is to us today.  Too often we think that because Jesus came all those years ago and died on the cross, that we don’t need to think about it anymore.  Let’s just celebrate Christmas because that’s when Jesus made everything better.  We have lost our Hope.  Why Hope for something that has already come?  We continue to Hope because even though Jesus has laid out the path for us, we still have to walk it.  We have to choose to follow this baby to the cross.  We have to Hope that we have the strength and courage to walk into the Light of the Lord.  And we have to Hope that Jesus will spread a grace that we do not deserve upon us.  Because what is Hope but another word for Faith?  So have Hope this week and this season.  Have Hope that Jesus will lay out a way for you to walk and Hope that you have the Faith to go down it with Him.