Daring to Hope–an Advent Message
Daring to Hope
“The Hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight”
–O Little Town of Bethlehem
Hope and fear—both common experiences during the holidays.
–A Child hopes for a particular treasure, but fears disappointment on Christmas morn
–Adults have hopes for their family celebrations and fears for what can possibly happen when relatives get together
–Some people hope they can get through the holidays less stressed, less broke, less fatigued, less let-down when they’re done
–Some people are hoping that this coming year will be better than the last
It’s interesting that some people are working so hard to remove the birth of Jesus from the holiday festivities, because Christmas even in the more secular aspects of our Christmas practices, it’s as if God is allowing our hearts to feel and experience the very thing that God’s people experienced 2,000 years ago when they were waiting, praying, longing, HOPING for the day of Messiah’s arrival, and trying to hold back the fear that would inevitably creep in every day that God’s promise seemed to be delayed.
We can push the name of Jesus into the corners of our holiday season,
But we can’t escape the longings and hungers
That cause us to fear, and dare us to hope.
Luke 1:5-25 (NIV)
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 incense came, all the assembled worshipers 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 to 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 their 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.”
Zechariah’s story: Helps us prepare to experience what it means to hope and fear and wait—yes, Zechariah, as a good Jew, was hoping for Messiah’s arrival, but that wasn’t the only thing he was hoping for:
He was hoping for a CHILD.
It’s tough for us to understand what a devastating thing it was for Zechariah and Elizabeth to be growing older and older with no child.
It was hard for me and Elmarie—after a miscarriage and health barriers
For Elizabeth and Zechariah, a baby was EVERYTHING
Having children was essential for the family to earn a living
Influenced your reputation and social standing
Your child was your NEST EGG –provide for you in old age
Many people believed that children were the guarantee of your salvation
A child meant so much more than a cute little bundle of joy
That makes me think about the stuff that becomes so important in our lives, especially the holidays.
Light displays—sense of accomplishment?
Family gatherings (realizing that Mom really wants to see us; more than a party)
Finding the right gifts
**Look at the things that get your best energy; investment; anxiety)
What is the deeper need and longing underneath it?
Simple prayer: Jesus, in the thing I’m longing for / worried about—what is the deeper longing that my heart is hungry for?
Perfect dinner: Approval?
Busyness: Fear of letting people down?
Over-spending/drinking What is behind it?
God’s Promise to Zechariah: 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.”
The Language—his son would make the way for Messiah; Messiah is coming.
Hundreds of years before, God had promised to send his Messiah, who would heal the broken relationship between Israel and God, and deliver them from all of the obstacles and barriers that made their life so hard—and with God’s Messiah would come God’s KINGDOM.
This is a HUGE promise that is being given to Zechariah
And Z completely missed it—
B/c all he can think of is “I don’t have a son” –he can’t get over the years of disappointment
he can’t trust it, or enjoy it. Zachariah’s longing is so great –the fear of disappointment is so great.
WHAT IS IT THAT WE MISS OUT ON –in life & the holiday season—because our unmet longings get in the way?
Are we able to truly enjoy the relatives; the gifts; the activities?
SOMETIMES WE BLOW IT & MISS THE REAL GIFT of the holidays
Zechariah blew it, too.
The Lord’s response was to close Zechariah’s MOUTH
NOT ELIZABETH’S WOMB—the Lord didn’t take back his gift
He doesn’t go find someone more worthy or full of faith.
I wonder if God was saying, “Zechariah, I love you. Now just shut up and watch what I’m going to do in your life.”
I wonder what that was like for Z, over the next 9 months, to watch his wife’s belly get bigger and bigger, unable to speak a word, just sitting back in silence, watching what God was doing for him and the world.
God loves to give gifts—God loves to be active in our lives, to expand our hearts to receive and trust more of his love and more of his life.
And yeah, we spend a lot of time resisting it—with our busyness, by filling ourselves with stuff that never quite fills us up inside, with our negativity, anxiety, apathy, and worry.
Our resistance to the gift can be so strong,
but God’s desire is even stronger.
What might be the gift that God wants to give to you—
More than what you want this year,
What might your heart NEED?
More of God’s presence
Awareness of God’s presence in a tough situation
Willingness to follow God’s way when your way seems the logical choice
This is the time to hope
–for the gift that God longs to give you.