Advent 1 HOPE
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, Who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.
Have you ever been to a church that everyone is talking about, where it seems like everyone knows that it is a great church, really doing the Lord’s work? Certainly there are outstanding churches and we thank God for them. One such church was in San Antonio. It started with a new student coming out of the St Louis Seminary. He was sent to an area which wasn’t much of anything and in time it grew to about 5000 members. I attended a couple of his lectures and it seems like the key factor was hard work. I also knew a couple of his vicars and another factor was leadership. He had the vision and he was the leader.
Another church in a much smaller way was my home congregation. It was decided that East Orlando needed its own church and so 5 congregations got together and sponsored it. The pastor started with 250 and in time it grew to 1400. The growth was made possible by excellent preaching and a warm-hearted pastor plus several key members who worked hard in various ways to make the church an inviting place to worship.
What is our reputation like? In this tourist area we have many visitors from all over the US. What do they say about us? We too have a faithful pastor and key laymen who work hard to make our church an inviting place. Are you among them?
Our text says, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people…” Throughout Christianity, the saints at Colossae were known to the Believers.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. When it was all said and done, it was the Gospel which was converting people and drawing them to Christ and to His Church. Likewise in the two churches I mentioned. It was the Gospel- preached in many cases to fellow Christians who believed in Jesus but hadn’t heard the real Gospel. They had been led to believe that we are saved by faith and by good works. Good works which individual churches and pastors spelled out which had little to do with the Bible.
“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people, the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven…”
We are in Advent and Advent is that part of the Church Year in which we recall the Jews awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Our hymns and our readings anticipate not only their longing for the coming of the Messiah but also ours in awaiting the Second Coming. The theme for this week is HOPE.
Let’s look at a few words which help us to understand HOPE. Let’s start with FAITH. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith implies a guarantee. The words “assurance” and “conviction” stand out.
Now the word WISH: Wish can imply wanting something that isn’t possible. On the other hand, HOPE can be possible.
I wish that my mother could have seen my two grandsons. I hope my two grandsons will become men of which I can be proud. The one is possible the other isn’t. And then we come back to Faith. All these words are similar but not exactly the same.
“The hope stored up for you in heaven…” What is that hope? What can we expect in heaven? Let’s look at St John’s depiction of heaven: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” What in the world is he talking about! Every concept is foreign to us! We know death, we know crying and we know pain. These are a part of our lives. But what did I say? What in this “world”… John wasn’t talking about this world, but why we pray, “Thy Kingdom come!”
Again, “In Thy presence there is FULLNESS of Joy.” I don’t have any concept of a joy that is so complete. I know joy. You and I have experienced it time and again. But fullness? Rather we experience a joy where something nags us, which is outstanding, like tomorrow where trouble and aches and pains and crying and death are around the corner, some job we have to do that we really don’t want to, a bill that must be paid… the list goes on….So for what is to come and how heaven shall be, we can only hope.
My faith tells me I will be in heaven, for “We hold that a man is justified by faith and not by the works of the Law.” And “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” We know we are not saved by being good or by how much good works we have done. Or as some foolishly believe, if a person does more good than bad, God will forgive the bad.
But what is heaven going to be like??? We can hope it to be as we (with our human minds and limited knowledge) want it to be. I know I will see Jesus as He really is. I hope to meet my grandparents and to get to know them. I hope to stand in that great crowd of witnesses next to my wife and my mother and my siblings. I hope heaven will be as I want it to be. And so do you!
Then there is this: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
In Advent we Christians hope that Jesus will come in our life time so that we shall see Him as He is. Also so that this political world which is not doing very well will not get any worse for our children and grandchildren to put up with, and so that this earth with its groaning with its storms and earthquakes and fires will harm us no more! So that we will not have to stand any more over the caskets of those whom we love, so that that new World with all it beauty will begin. And so along with St John and with the Church of all ages, we hear Jesus say, “Surely I am coming soon.” And we repeat their words and make them ours, “Even so Lord Jesus, come!” Amen.
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