Year A Advent 2 2016
Text: Romans 15:4-13 – The God of all hope
Of all the qualities that Paul could have assigned to God it's interesting that he refers to God as a God of hope.
We live in a world where hope is sought after so badly in so many ways because people want to be sure about their future
Knowing that their future is secure gives them hope for the future.
I read in the news last week about a 14 year old girl diagnosed with terminal cancer.
She requested that her body be frozen in a process called cryogenics which will maintain her body until science discovers a cure for her cancer and be able to give her the rest of her life back.
What I find sad about this story is that the God of hope doesn't just offer her her life back again but a life that has no end.
Even if science was able to give her back the rest of her life sometime in the future, like Jesus did for Lazarus and Jairus's daughter, like Lazarus and Jairus's daughter she would have to face the reality of death again.
The God of Hope however offers her a life where there is no more suffering or death, no more crying or mourning.
The world seeks hope, whether it be by hoping to win the lottery, hoping to own your own home, hoping to retire with a nice amount of superannuation,
the world sells hope to us but it is a hope that is never guaranteed.
Something can always go wrong.
Christian hope is different because of the one through whom hope comes.
Christian hope comes from the God of hope and therefore whatever God promises will eventuate.
Paul links hope with joy and peace when he says:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.
Having just spent 2 weeks on holidays cruising around New Zealand there was a lot of joy.
Time away from the hustle and bustle of work – the joy of touring around and seeing a different part of the world – the joy of being on a cruise ship with fine dining and just being able to sit back and relax.
But like all holidays they come to an end and then the joy is only a memory.
Like Christian hope, Christian joy is different to the joy that the world gives.
The world gives physical joy but that joy is temporary.
The worldly joy is more linked with happiness.
Christian joy is different because it is not based on physical joy or happiness but a joy that comes from our Christian hope knowing that our life is on a journey towards heaven.
So even when a Christian is going through a time of difficulty and sadness, joy can still be a reality.
And no matter what life experience we are going through, even the most trying of circumstances, we can experience Christian joy even if there is no sign of physical joy.
I have seen Christian joy in the faces of those I have sat at their side on their deathbed.
There is no more physical joy for them but their lives are filled with Christian joy knowing that they will soon be in the loving arms of God.
And that Christian joy can only come from their Christian hope which is given to them by the God of hope – the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul in fact says – suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope – and hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 5:3).
And through that hope Paul says we rejoice in our sufferings!
Can you imagine the world telling us to rejoice in our sufferings?
And it is that joy and hope that gives us something else that the world cannot give – Christian peace.
As Jesus once said – I give you a peace the world cannot give. (John 14:27)
As St Paul said – the peace of God that goes beyond all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
It is a peace that comes knowing that whatever circumstances we are going through there is that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel – and that light is Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
There is nothing in this life that can give you the hope that Christian hope gives to us.
However, because of our human nature we keep looking for hope in the wrong places.
We keep going back to the physical hope that the world gives.
We look at our possessions, our careers, our money as symbol of hope.
We worry when we feel we don’t have enough to make our future secure.
And the world takes advantage of your insecurity to draw you deeper and deeper into fear and away from God.
The world sells a hope of a secured future, the joy of knowing that you don't have to worry about the future and peace knowing that your future is secured but guarantees nothing.
But the God of Hope, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is about a different future.
God offers hope of our eternal future.
Worldly hope, joy and peace is always contingent on worldly matters.
A global financial crisis can wipe away hope of the future
A diagnosis of a terminal disease can wipe away all joy for the future.
World trauma – wars, famine, disease, terrorism, floods, droughts and bush fires, global warming can wipe away our peace in an instant.
But nothing in the world can take away our hope of eternal life.
As Paul says – nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
So the life of the Christian will always be one of wavering between earthly hope and Christian hope because of our insecurities – just like Adam and Eve did..
We are so tempted to put our hope in physical things that we can touch and see rather than Christian hope that is lived by faith – as the writer to Hebrews says – faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).
And so the message of John the Baptist is a valid for us today – repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
To repent means to turn back to God away from human insecurities.
For John the Baptist hope was always about the Kingdom of Heaven.
But even John wavered in the midst of his suffering when he wanted confirmation - Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:3)
And so too, we are going to question in those times but we need to repent.
The Kingdom of Heaven is what life is all about.
Life is not about possessions or success.
Life is about putting all our hope in reaching our Heavenly home.
And as John said – the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
It is a breath away which nobody knows when their last breath will be.
And if the Kingdom of Heaven is our hope then everything else in life doesn't really matter.
If we don't get to own our own home but reach our heavenly home what does it matter.
If we don't rise to the top of our profession but reach our Heavenly Home to live in the presences of Almighty God, what does it matter?
If everyone seems to exceed you or you don't achieve your worldly hopes and dreams, what does it matter when you reach your heavenly home and never have to experience disappointments ever again?
But Paul was insistent that our joy and peace does not start only when we have reached the Kingdom of Heaven.
No, it begins now because our Christian hope brings the future hope into a present reality.
So he says things like - our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20)
And, since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above; For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-4).
And that means we live our lives now as citizens of heaven, as John says – the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For us it is already here because our certain Christian hope means our eternal life has already begun even though we are not there yet.
If we live our lives worried about the future then we don’t fully understand what Christian hope means and offers, just like John when he asked – are you the one or should we expect another.
When our hopes become focused on worldly assurance then we will never be assured.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for the future but we should live by faith trusting God when times are uncertain.
And when we live by our Christian hope then we know that our future is mapped out for us as Paul says - we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
So may the God of hope continue to strengthen you faith so you may continue to find joy in this life amidst all the doom and gloom that the media reports on and find the peace that comes from knowing Christ our Lord allowing you to wait again this Advent season for our Lord to return – come Lord Jesus come.