Archive for December, 2015

You Crown the Year with Your Bounty!

Sermon Notes (Sunday December 27th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

You Crown the Year with Your Bounty!

Psalm 65:11; Hebrews 1:8-12

 

This is the last Sunday of 2015. In a few days, the year will be coming to an end. I did not want us as individuals and as a congregation to miss the opportunity today to reflect upon both our lives and God’s faithfulness in 2015. I like to highlight a couple observations from Psalm 65 and Hebrews chapter one. I think both Scripture passages bring to us great insights.

 

First: The Goodness of God’s Presence

The first observation I would like to make this morning comes from Psalm 65. As we know from the title, Psalm 65 is a psalm of David. The title, however, does not inform us on what particular occasion it was written. Some scholars believe King David composed it after one of his life-threating situations. As David experienced the salvation and the deliverance of God, he gave a general acknowledgement of God’s Providence which extended itself to the end of the earth. The Psalm therefore has both the personal and corporate dimensions. It is an expression of personal and public thanksgiving for God’s deliverance and generosity.

 

I think what Psalm 65 is calling us to do is so simple. Slow down, look back and trace the generosity of God in your life. Toward the end of the Psalm, verse 11, David did the same thing and gave us his conclusion, “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.” This is a witness of a man who took sometime and counted God’s blessings!

 

In other translations, Psalm 65:11 says, “You crown the year with Your goodness; Your ways overflow with plenty.” The emphasis here is on “Your goodness.” God’s goodness is a key word ~ “You crown the year with Your goodness.” It is not the goodness of the world, but of the Lord. What is God’s goodness? In order to understand the meaning of “God’s goodness”, we need to go back to an incident that is recorded in Exodus 33:18-20, “Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” He said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” So, what is God’s goodness? It is not His gifts; it is His very presence. Earlier in the chapter, Exodus 33:14, God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

 

You probably know the story of the man who one night had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

 

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to trust and follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.” The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” Friends, our Savior is always present whether we knew it or not. As you look at your life today, can you sing the words of Psalm 65:11? If you’ve difficulty identifying the goodness of the Lord in your life, think of His presence. Earlier in Psalm 65:4, we read, “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.” It is who He is not what He gives.

 

Second: God is our Trustworthy Refuge

The second observation comes from the letter to the Hebrews chapter one and has to do with God being our trustworthy refuge. As we look at our lives in 2015 and as we look ahead to 2016, where does our help come from? I am sure that there are so many answers to such a question. Some would hope to find help in their material possessions. Others would put their trust in their health, job, family or friends. But Psalm 91:2 directs us into a different direction. It says, “I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

 

Friends, everything in life might change, but God’s faithfulness and God’s Covenant with His children will never change. In Hebrews 1:10-12 we read, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.   You will roll them up like a robelike a garment they will be changed. But YOU remain the same, and your years will never end.” This is where we should put our trust. This is where we should throw our anchor. God and only God has been and will be out trustworthy and reliable refuge. 2 Timothy 1:12 states, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

 

Church, these two lessons I am suggesting this morning are so simple and yet so challenging. They are simple because they are crystal clear in the Scriptures. They are challenging because they work against our human nature. But as we see in God’s presence our utmost goodness and as we see in God our trustworthy fortress, I assure you of one great thing that will happen. We will make that transition from existing to living. There is a huge difference between someone who just exists and someone who has real life. So many people exist, but a few live. In other words, you will experience a different kind of living. Psalm 16 captures the essence of the message this morning. “Keep me safe, my God, for in YOU I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from YOU I have no good thing.” Best wishes for 2016. May we view God’s presence as our real goodness and our delightful inheritance. May we view our God as our Shield and Defender. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Joy to the World!

Sermon Notes (Sunday December 20th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Joy to the World!

Psalm 16:8-11; Luke 2:8-14

 

If you were to ask anyone on the street what is the most joyful time of the year? Without any hesitation, it would be unanimous that Christmas is the most joyful time of the year. Several of our favorite carols capture the essence of Christmas, which is joy. To name some: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come,” “O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,” “Shepherds, why this jubilee, why your joyous strains prolong?” “Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice,” “Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies, with the angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem.’”  In Luke 2:10-11 the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’”

 

I wonder how many of us feel joyful this morning? Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated? So rushed? So squeezed and cluttered? It doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to step aside, step into a quieter moment, and read the angel’s words that came on that night that changed the whole world. Today we wrap up a four week series through which we focused on the four traditional themes associated with season of Advent: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. We have already covered the first three topics. Please allow me this morning to briefly address the topic of joy.

 

The Message of Christmas is not a Delusional Message

The question I am asking us this morning is: Where did all the Christmas joy go? It’s not always easy to feel joyful. Does that mean the Christmas message is delusional? You and I know that the message of Christmas is NOT a delusional message. We are not pretending that we live in a world that is not struggling under a curse and sin. Yet, we can be joyful. I am joyful today not because everything in my life is going just the right way. I am joyful today not because everything is exactly the way I want it to be. Let me tell you why you and I should be joyful this morning.

 

First: Emmanuel ~ God is with us

My hearts should be filled with joy today because, as Isaiah 9:6 says, “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” This Son is Jesus ~ Emmanuel, God is with us. I am joyful today because I am not alone and I will never walk this journey we call life by myself because my Savior walks with me. The hymn In the Garden captures that thought: “And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.”

 

Friends, we don’t know what our future holds, but we do know who holds our future. So many things and people might desert us in times of need, but Emmanuel won’t. We can be joyful today because we are confident of God’s presence and God’s faithfulness. In Psalm 23:6, King David reminds us, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Friends, Christ’s joy is not determined by circumstances. It is the presence of the Lord that makes the whole difference.

 

Second: We Have Been Forgiven

We should be joyful today because we’ve been forgiven. In the gospel of Luke 2:11 we are given great news: “Today in the town of David, in Bethlehem, a Savior was born to us; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” In Matthew 1:21 the angel appeared to Joseph and said to him, “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” We rejoice today because our Savior is born. Psalm 32:1 says, “Blessed (the Greek word μακάριος “makarios” means extremely happy) is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” We are joyful today because we’ve been forgiven.

 

Third: We are here for a Reason

In John 20:21 Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” We should be joyful today because we know we are around for a reason. We are on earth in a mission. Once the mission is accomplished, we will be with our Lord and Savior signing praises to the Lamb with the redeemed of all ages in heaven: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” Revelation 5:12. When the time of our service is completed, we will return home.

 

Friends, nothing will hinder us from accomplishing God’s purposes in and through us. Nothing ~ no trouble, no hardship, no persecution, no famine, no nakedness, no danger, no sword will separate us from the Love of God. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” as Paul says in Romans 8:37.  Then once the journey has come to an end, we will be greeted by the Lord Himself, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master” Matthew 25:21.

 

Friends, Christmas is about declaring, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” God’s desire is that His people would be full of joy. Jesus wants you to have real joy; joy that is true joy; joy that is lasting joy; joy that is great joy. It is joy that is unshakable joy because it is not fragile. It is joy that will endure the storms of life. It is real joy that transforms the sob of the soul into a new song. It is joy that heals the broken heart and gives it new life. It is joy that turns a bitter frown into a radiant smile. It is joy that turns the deepest despair into the greatest delight. It is joy that cannot be imitated, it cannot be duplicated, it cannot be purchased in a pill, it cannot be bought in a bottle. It is joy that is found in Jesus Christ, for He and He alone is the source of joy. King David reminds us in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Merry Christmas Elmer Presbyterian Church family. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

 

God’s Love Revealed!

Sermon Notes (Sunday December 13th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

God’s Love Revealed!

Proverb 11:25; 1 John 3:1-6

 

For those of you who have never heard of the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), he is regarded as the greatest Reformed theologian of the 20th century. Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics runs to over six million words and 8,000 pages ~ one of the longest works of systematic theology ever written. When Barth visited the University of Chicago, students and scholars crowded around him. At a press conference, someone asked, “Dr. Barth, what is the most profound truth you have learned in your studies?” Without hesitation Barth replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Karl Barth, the greatest mind of the 20th century, was impacted most, not be reading theology, but by the simple truth, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

 

Today is the third Sunday of Advent. Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy are four themes that we have chosen for the four Sundays of Advent this year. We have already covered the first two topics, the hope of Christ’s coming and the peace that He brings. Today we emphasize the love of God revealed to us in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God absolutely loves us. It’s hard to get our mind around, but it is true. He loves us. This is where the faith journey starts: understanding that God loves us. If we do not have an assurance of God’s love, our faith journey will not last long. Two quick observations as we meditate on God’s love revealed to us:

 

First: God’s Love is an Amazing Truth

God’s love is a reality that we encounter throughout the Scriptures. Isaiah 49:16 says that God loves us so much that He engraved our names on the palm of His hand. Matthew 10:30 says that He loves us so much that He knows how many hairs are on our head. Psalm 56:8 says He loves us so much that He saves our tears in a bottle. Jeremiah 31:3 says He loves us with an everlasting love.

 

God’s love is very personal toward His own. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter what you’ve experienced – God loves you. It doesn’t matter what you have thought about yourself or what other people may have said about you – God loves you. This is what God says about you! You are honored, you are precious in His eyes, says Isaiah 43:4. “This is love:,” says 1 John 4:10, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” says 1 John 3:1

 

Unfortunately, we have a very distorted meaning of love. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand the real meaning of love. People may say they love their job, their truck, their new hat, or their new phone. With all of these mixed messages about love, it can be difficult to understand the real meaning of love. The children performed to us today the Christmas Pageant. Friends, there is no greater love than the love expressed through Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. When we know there is nothing we can do to earn His love and there is nothing we can do to lose His love, there is a security that settles into our souls, a confidence that people cannot take away and job losses, divorce, sickness, or surgery can threaten. There is nothing like the freedom that comes from knowing you are loved by God in spite of your imperfections. God’s love indeed is an amazing truth.

 

Second: Simply Spreading God’s Love

Love is revealed. Now God’s amazing love has to be shared. We share a lot of things with each other don’t we? You find a restaurant you like, you tell people.  You find a good bargain at the store and you share the news with others.  You receive poor service someplace, you tell your friends to “stay away from there!”  And, so it goes, we share with one another.

 

People today are cynical about the gospel message as they have always been. If we receive a letter offering a free gift, our first thought it is a trap to try to make us buy something we do not want. Our world is skeptical of the gospel. We live in a world full of calls offering us help with our credit card, insurance, etc. We all know that almost all of these have some form of trickery involved. For so many people today, the gospel, God’s unconditional love, is too good to be true.

 

Because of the skeptical world of the gospel message, Christians today are very shy to share the love of God with others. Evangelism scares us, doesn’t it?  After all our faith is personal! What will happen if the person doesn’t want to hear? Will they get mad at me? Aren’t we told to avoid the topics of religion and politics? What will I say?  How should I say it?  And our list goes on and on! I think the hard question we need to ask is: Is our faith in Jesus Christ important enough to share?  Where does it rank in the list of things we share ~ a good restaurant, where to find the cheapest gas, the latest bargain we found?

 

The mission of the church is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. This is our message! Sharing our faith is challenging but it is not impossible. Evangelism means changing our attitude from one of despair and nothing can happen to one of hope and the sky is the limit for change. There were once two shoe salesmen who went to Africa to open new sales territories. Three days after they arrived, the first salesman faxed a message: “I will be returning on next plane. I can’t sell shoes here. Everyone goes barefoot all the time.” There was no report from the second salesman for about two weeks. Then came a fat airmail envelope with this message for the home office. “Fifty orders enclosed. Prospects unlimited. Nobody here has shoes.” It all depends on our attitude and our faith in the Lord.

 

In the Book of Proverbs 11:25 the Scripture reminds us that, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” The International Standard Version (ISV) translates Proverbs 11:25 this way: “A generous person will prosper, and anyone who gives water will receive a flood in return.” Last Sunday Elders Charlie Puff and Manny Nowak shared with us the encouraging news about the generosity of this congregation in helping with the budget gap we had. Keep investing in God’s Kingdom. Keep receiving more and sharing more of God’s love with all those around us. A story is told of a selfish person who inherited a rice field in India. The first season the irrigation water covered his property, making it very fruitful, and it also overflowed on to his neighbors fields, bringing a great harvest to them as well. The next season he decided that he was too generous in sharing his wealth by letting this water escape to others so he stopped the water with a specially made dam. However, in doing so he spoiled his own crop. The irrigation water brought blessing when it flowed, but when it became stagnant, it turned the field into an unfruitful marsh. Advent is a reminder that greatest love is revealed. It is now our turn to share it. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

“Waiting for the Prince of Peace!”

Sermon Notes (Sunday December 6th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Waiting for the Prince of Peace!

Isaiah 9:6-7; Ephesians 2:14-18

 

As you know, today is the second Sunday of Advent. This year during Advent we are meditating on the four traditional themes Christians have always emphasized and celebrated during Advent namely, Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. Last Sunday we looked at the hope of Christ’s coming. Israel had waited for so long for the Messiah to come and when He came they could not recognize Him. Their life was revolved around the hope of the Messiah’s coming. The Church today, the body of Christ, the Bride, awaits for the Second Coming of Christ in great power and glory. To sum up what we said last Sunday: Christ Himself is our hope. He is the object of our hope. It really matters where we put our hope.

 

In Advent, we are also reminded to wait for the coming of “Prince of Peace.” In fact, 700 years before Jesus was actually born, Isaiah the prophet described Jesus this way in Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” What does it mean that Jesus is “the Prince of Peace”?

 

In a world filled with war and violence, sometimes it’s difficult to see how Jesus could be the all-powerful God who acts in human history and be the embodiment of peace. Friends, the fact there is no peace on earth, the fact hate is so strong and revenge seeking is so common, does not mean the “Prince of Peace” has failed. The cause of distress and turmoil is our own sinfulness. If only we would take God’s Word seriously, if only we would repent, turn from our sin, and believe the gospel, the world would be a very different place. This morning as we think of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, I would like to define peace and share a single thought based on Isaiah 9 and Ephesians 2:

 

What is Peace?

What is peace? The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom. Shalom can actually mean a lot of things. It can mean “hello”. It can mean “goodbye”. It can mean “wellbeing”. It can also mean “peace”… but not just peace as in the absence of war. It means that kind of peace that does not really depend on the surroundings. To have shalom is to have a fulfilled life in every way. When you have shalom there is no feeling of harm or hurt. You don’t live in fear. There’s no worry. You know your purpose in life and you have a sense of wholeness and completeness. Everything is exactly the way it should be; nothing is out of order. It’s an inward state of being that is expressed outwardly. This is shalom – this is the kind of peace that Jesus came to bring. This is what the Bible means when we call Jesus the Prince of Peace.

 

In the Greek Roman world, the Greek word eirene that is translated peace in the New Testament means “unity and accord”. It is that sense of harmony and oneness. Paul uses eirene to describe the objective of the New Testament church. Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” But the deeper, more foundational Biblical meaning of peace is “the spiritual harmony brought about by an individual’s restoration with God.”

 

In our sinful state, we were “God’s enemies” as Romans 5:10 says. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are restored to a relationship of peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” says Paul in Romans 5:1. This is the deep, abiding peace between our hearts and our Creator that cannot be taken away and the ultimate fulfillment of Christ’s work as “Prince of Peace.” Any other way to peace but the one that Christ provides is absolutely a fake peace. In Jeremiah 6:14 we read, “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace.”

 

Is it Easy or Peaceful Life?

When we think of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, we tend to mix up a peaceful life with an easy life. In the Scriptures, peaceful doesn’t mean “easy.” Jesus never promised easy; He only promised help. He promised His peace to abide in us when life gets tough. In fact, He told us to expect tribulation and trials. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” No matter what hardships we are faced with, the powerful love and peace of God will sustain us. In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Peace is one of God’s most previous gifts to those who have trusted Him.

 

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a very faithful Christian and a friend of the famous preacher Dwight L. Moody. At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had. In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much-needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.

 

With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. As he sailed across the area were their ship went down and they drowned, he penned those now famous words, When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul. For more than a century, the tragic story of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It Is Well With My Soul. Friends, this is what the Scriptures call in Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” This is the kind of peace that shall keep our hearts, our minds through Christ Jesus.

 

Friends, although peace, it would seem, is hard to come by these days. And that is precisely why we lift it up as a focus for this Second Sunday of Advent. Isaiah reminds us that Jesus is the Prince of peace. The prophet Micah also reminds us in chapter 5:5 that “He will be our peace.” In Ephesians 2:14 Paul said, “For He Himself is our peace.” Do you have the peace of Christ in your life? A man in the hospital was close to death. A minister came to see him and asked, “Have you made your peace with God?” The man answered him, “I didn’t know we had ever quarreled.” If a person is unaware of their need for God it is unlikely that they will want to find God or seek His peace. Advent is God’s way of getting humanity’s attention; and making them fully aware of their need for His peace. The Christmas message was clear, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” says Luke 2:14, “and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

“Hope is on the Way!”

Sermon Notes (Sunday November 29th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Hope is on the Way!

Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36

 

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. During the next four weeks we are going to reflect on the four traditional themes that are associated with this season: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy.  So this Sunday we begin with the first theme, the hope of Advent ~ the hope of Christ’s coming. Earlier in our worship today, the Women’s Association lit the First Advent Candle, the Candle of Hope. It’s a reminder to all of us that hope is on the way. The Prophet Jeremiah and the gospel of Luke give us some great insights about the hope that is on the way. Please allow me this morning to highlight a couple important observations based on Jeremiah 33 and Luke 21:

 

First: Our Hope is Found Only in the Lord

In Jeremiah 33:14-16 we read, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’”

 

The prophet Jeremiah preached this wonderful Advent sermon 600 years before Christ’s first coming. But it is just as wonderful to us today as it was to the “house of Israel and the house of Judah” then. Judah and Israel needed to be reminded and reassured as much as we do to continue to walk the narrow road and live by faith because the Lord always fulfills His promise. The Savior will come. God’s salvation will surly come!

 

Jeremiah lived in a time of great insecurity for the Jews due to threats to overrun them by surrounding powerful nations – the superpowers of Babylon and Assyria rumbled in the not too far off distance in the North, and Egypt was the main power to the south with Israel and Judah caught in the middle. Jeremiah’s ministry was often about warning the leaders not to put their trust in foreign alliances, but in God. The simple solution of the time was to form strategic alliances with the superpowers; yet Jeremiah’s message was much harder – to trust in God not in others.

 

We live in difficult times too: you’ve only got to listen to the news, read a paper or observe the world around us. There is war all over the world, on-going conflict and unrest in so many places, terrorism and threats from ISIS and many other groups. Where do we find hope? Where do we find security and safety? Jeremiah’s hope was based on the coming of the Lord ~ the Righteous Savior. He tells us of this One whose Advent sets His people free. Christian hope is summed up in the name Jeremiah promises us, “The Lord is our Righteous Savior.”

 

God’s people during Jeremiah’s time looked for hope in the political alliances with some of the most powerful neighbors around them. This is what we exactly do today. We make alliances with money, with health, with the stock market, with different kinds of insurance, with popularity, with beauty, and so many other things. Friends, none of these things has ever brought hope or security to those who pursued them. I hope you and I take a moment this Advent season to place our hope in the ONE who can deliver us from our fears and insecurities. How silly to regard any of these things as the end of our hope, to treat them as gods.

 

Many people heard Jeremiah’s message and rejected it because they couldn’t see beyond the present. Yet, some heard Jeremiah and they saw the glory and awesome wonder of their God. They lived in the midst of their troubles trusting the Righteous Savior who will deliver them out of them all. They sought God and looked forward to the arrival of the Savior.  We should take their example to heart.  We live in the in the present with our eyes on the hope of the future of Christ’s return. Let’s never grow apathetic to the glorious gospel and the future we have in Christ.

 

Second: Your Redemption is Drawing Near

In our reading from the gospel of Luke, Jesus talks about reading the signs of the times and being alert to the signs of the coming Kingdom ~ the coming of the Righteous Savior to use the language of Jeremiah 33:16. The coming Kingdom ~ this isn’t part of the vocabulary of most Christians today. The coming of Christ makes so many Christians today uncomfortable. Yet the Bible and the classic Creeds of the Church clearly state that Christ indeed shall return. Every time we celebrate Communion we assert, “Christ had died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” That truth is one of the oldest parts of Communion liturgy. And so this Advent as we reflect on Jesus’ coming among us as a weak helpless babe, may we also remember His return in glory.

 

Jesus foretold the coming of His Kingdom and that it will come in all its fullness at the end of time when Jesus returns. We also see the Kingdom comes every time we surrender our lives to Jesus. We see the kingdom coming every time we do what Jesus told us to do – His most famous parable of the Kingdom in Matthew 25 tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty and visit the imprisoned. We see the Kingdom comes every time we pursue more of Christ. In the meantime we have to be patient, watch, wait and be alert to the signs of that coming Kingdom in its fullness. Jesus is clear in this passage that His Second Coming will appear like a trap and that we should pray for the strength to stand before Him. While the signs of the coming of Jesus may bring fear to some people, for us, it is the most comfortable truth. Luke 21:28 says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” We left up our heads and live without any kind of fear because of the righteous Branch sprout from David’s line. We are confident in His love and grace!

 

Friends, we now rejoice with Jeremiah, with Luke, and all God’s faithful through the ages. We live in the present with our eyes on the hope of Christ’s return ~ Christ came, He come to us every day, and He will come in full glory. This is our hope and this is our gift to the world. As Alexander the Great was setting out on his conquest of Asia, he inquired into the finances of his followers. To ensure that they would not be troubled over the welfare of their dependents during their absence, he distributed crown estates and revenues among them. When he had thus disposed of nearly all the royal resources, his friend General Perdiccas asked Alexander what he had reserved for himself. “Hope,” answered the king. “In that case,” said Perdiccas, “we who share in your labors will also take part in your hopes.” He then refused the estate allotted to him, and several others of the king’s friends did the same. This is the gift of hope. Remember, our true hope is only found in the Lord. Second, while everyone is so scared and fearful as they see the signs of the coming of God’s Kingdom in its fullness, remember what Jesus said: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!