The Arrival of Hope
BIG IDEA: Worship is always the right response to the saving grace of Jesus
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Stories are an essential part of Christmas; they inspire us, encourage us, and fill us with nostalgia. But what’s different about the Christmas story is that it gives birth to true and eternal hope.
When we reflect on what God has done in the past, as we do in the recounting of this story, it gives us hope for what God will do in the future and shows us how we should respond. We serve an unchanging God which means He will always do what He has always done. (Romans 15:4)
From the Christmas story in Luke 1, we find three reasons for hope:
1. God’s at work, so we can wait patiently.
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” (v. 1-5)
We know this account of Christ’s birth is more than a fairy tale because Luke roots his story in verifiable human history. God fulfills His promise from the Old Testament to provide a savior for His people, and He uses the imperial edict of a foreign oppressor to do so. Because Mary and Joseph are required by law to return to their home town to register for tax purposes, another Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled when Jesus is born in Bethlehem.
There is so much more than historical context here, though. It becomes clear that God’s hand is on all that is happening and that He has been divinely orchestrating every part of this event all along.
Consequently we, too, can know that God is always at work in our lives. No matter how difficult or devastating, God uses everything that happens to move His plan forward.
2. God provides, so we can walk confidently.
“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (v. 6-7)
Mary and Joseph travel 85-90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This would have been an arduous journey for anyone, but especially for Mary, who was 9 months pregnant at that time. On their arrival, they are relegated to the most humble of accommodations: a stable for animals, where Mary likely gives birth in the dirt. She places her newborn infant in what may have been nothing more than a hole in the ground, lined with leftover animal feed.
The fact that Christ’s birthplace was not spectacular is what makes it so significant! God always provides for the needs His people. If He calls us to it, He will provide for it so we can walk confidently through life by faith rather than fear.
3. God saves, so we can worship passionately.
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘ “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ ” (v. 8-14)
What’s amazing is not that angels appeared to announce the redemption of the world, but that the announcement was made to lowly, humble shepherds. God doesn’t choose the rich or powerful, He chooses the seemingly insignificant. The shepherds serve as picture of who Christ came to save: broken, hurting, poor, destitute people, like us.
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (v. 15-21)
Luke’s account forces us to face the implications of Christ’s birth in the same way. How will we respond to the good news of the eternal, saving hope represented in the life death and resurrection of Jesus?
Some will merely marvel - Will we be fascinated by the story, but not respond in faith? Marveling doesn’t save; belief does.
Some will simply ponder - Will we think about the story but stop there? Warm thoughts and reflection will produce nothing more than stillborn faith.
Some will passionately worship - Worship is always the right response to the saving grace of Jesus. We were made to respond to the grace and mercy of God with passionate worship.
The best decision you could make this holiday season is to believe this story and surrender your life to Jesus. The peace you want, the life you were made for, is bound up in faith in Christ.
(Adapted by Diane Rivers from sermon entitled, "The Arrival of Hope".)