“Hoping and Wishing”
Pastor David Moore
Old Testament reading: Isaiah 9:2-7
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
The Advent season (four Sundays before Christmas). The themes during this Advent season are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Today’s sermon is centered around Hope. The couple and Zechariah and Elizabeth demonstrate their Hope in God while waiting for a pregnancy that will bring John the Baptist into the world.
HOPE is often used to specify a desired outcome or offer good wishes. “I hope I can study abroad.” I hope you get into your dream school!”
WISH is most commonly used in imagined situations. “I wish I could study abroad.” (But I can’t.) “I wish you had gotten into your dream school.” (But you didn’t.)
New Testament reading: Luke 1:5-25
In the time of Herod, king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of the incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at the proper time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
When an angel tells you something, believe them. Don’t let personal disappointment diminish what God wants to do with your life and through your life. The issue with Zechariah is his disappointments have colored what he thinks God will do (has the power to do or might do). Zechariah has conditioned himself against the good news because of his dashed hopes. There is always hope because we trust God. ~D. Moore
“Hope is reliance upon grace in the face of death; the issue is that of receiving life as a gift, not as a reward and not as punishment; hope is living constantly, patiently, expectantly, resiliently, joyously in the efficacy of the word of God.” ~William Stringfellow
Zechariah and Elizabeth’s disappointment in not having a child had changed Hope into a Wish. The disappointment may have hardened their hearts where God showed up, it is hard to turn the Wish back to a Hope. When we rely on Wishes and give up Hope, we may participate in behavior that was previously out of bounds. ~D. Moore
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God throughout Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
I don’t know what you are Wishing for this year. Let’s start the process–if it needs doing–to turn the Wish back into Hope, because you know God; because you trust God; and you know His character. Then live in the light of His glory. ~D. Moore
Have a blessed week!