First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (First Sunday in Advent ~ November 29, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Finding Hope in the Midst of a Pandemic!”
Psalm 46; 1 Peter 1:13-16
If you’re familiar with the Church liturgical year, you would know that today is the First Sunday in Advent. Advent is one of the most uplifting church seasons. As you may know, the word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming.” The season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent is a season of preparation and anticipation; we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the First Coming of Christ, while looking forward to His Second Coming in glory.
During Advent, four important themes are emphasized: hope, peace, joy, and love. Being the First Sunday in Advent, “Hope” is the theme of our worship together today. It’s the hope of Christ’s coming; it’s the hope of God’s intervention. I truly believe that hope is what we need the most in the face of a global pandemic. Hope is a very broad topic and it’s impossible to cover it in one sermon, but I would like to spend a few minutes this morning unpacking very briefly this important topic.
Any examination of the topic of hope should start with defining hope. What is hope? What is the Biblical definition of hope? Then we will look at the source or the foundation of our hope. Where does hope come from? Finally, I will look at what does it mean for us today to live as people of hope?
First: What is Hope?
What is hope? Unfortunately, hope is an overused word in our culture. You hope that your team wins the Super Bowl, or you hope you will get a raise this year. Hope, as the world sees it, is a longing for something that may or may not take place. If someone says to you that “I hope you have a good day,” there is no guarantee that the day will go well. That is not hope…that is wishful thinking and it is utterly undependable and has no power to bring anything to pass.
Biblical hope, however, is something entirely different than the wishful thinking of the world. Biblical hope is not a feeling or an emotion. The Christian hope is far superior to that of the world. Biblical hope is “A deep settled confidence that God will keep His promises!” Biblical hope is a “joyful, confident expectation.” Do you see the difference between the world’s hope and the Christian hope? To have a Biblical hope is to have a sure anchor of the soul. If this is what hope means, what is the source or the foundation of our hope?
Second: Where Does Hope Come From?
Where does hope come from? Our hope is rooted in God’s faithfulness. Ever since the heavenly Father created time, everything has been in flux—everything changes, except God Himself. The environment changes with the seasons, and in a similar way, our life also goes through seasons. Some are filled with joy, while others are characterized by difficulty. But the Lord is faithful, and we can always take comfort in knowing this.
Faithfulness is one of God’s unchanging attributes. It means that He always does exactly what He says He will do and acts in accordance with His nature. He can never deny Himself, so, for example, when God promises in Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you,” you can count on Him when you sail rough seas.
God’s unchanging nature and faithfulness is an important foundation of our hope. Believers know that their hope is solid, concrete evidence because it is grounded in the very nature of God, in God’s faithfulness. The Christian hope cannot be moved by circumstances or what the eyes see because an unseen God is seen in His faithfulness. I like the words of Psalm 91:4. It says, “His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” True hope is grounded in God and springs from God’s faithfulness.
Third: What Does it Mean to Live as People of Hope?
Finally, what does it mean for us today to live as people of hope? Of course, it doesn’t mean that we will be exempt from facing the difficulties, the hardships, the heartaches of this world because believers and unbelievers alike will have to face those times. Rather, for us as believers, we have the hope, the assurance, the confidence, of God’s presence with us. So when we are lonely, we can rely on God’s presence. When we become week, we can rely on God’s power. When our resources run out, we can rely on God’s provision. When you hear those voices telling you to just quit, to give up, and to let go, hope comes in handy. Don’t stop. Keep going because God is able to shine his light in the midst of our darkness. When we are perplexed, confused, and paralyzed by the tragedies of this world, we can be assured that in all things God work for the good of those who love Him.
Friends, we are a people of hope. God is not done with us. There is still much to be done both in our own lives and in the world. The Church of Jesus Christ has been called to be an agent of hope in a hopeless world. In this First Sunday in Advent, we remember that hope is what our world needs the most in the face of this global pandemic. In our New Testament lesson from this morning, in 1 Peter 1:13, Peter invites us, “Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.”
So as we revisit our understanding of hope this Advent Season, may we remember that hope is a person. Colossians 1:27 states, “Christ in you is the hope of glory.” May we never forget that true hope is found neither in our politics nor in our strong economy; hope is found neither in our power nor in our wealth. In 1834, the British Baptist Minister Edward Mote (1797–1874), wrote this great hymn:
1. My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
2. When darkness hides His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
“I put my HOPE in YOU all day long,” says the Psalmist to God in Psalm 25:5. May this become our prayer too as we enter this season of Advent. Amen.
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