The Hope of Christmas

This past week I have seen countless articles regarding the use of guns in America.  I’ve read discussions concerning how we diagnose and treat mental illness.  Of course I’ve heard people opine about how things keep getting worse and worse and that Jesus must be returning soon, etc, etc.

This is not a message about the tragedy in Connecticut but the Christmas story has everything to do with the tragedy that struck our nation a little more than a week ago.  Christmas is about the introduction to the world of the solution of sin, Jesus.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading from the Old Testament lately.  It is full of some horrific stories; kings being assassinated, their families being butchered, both good and bad people being slaughtered.  I don’t believe that things today are any worse than what they were before.  The difference is that we pretend that we’re an enlightened culture that now knows the difference between right and wrong.  The things that happened in the Bible were done by barbaric people who didn’t know anything different, or at least that’s the way we pretend.

We do face a serious problem in our society today.  There are people with real and serious mental problems.  But the most serious problem is one that doesn’t get acknowledged by the media and that is sin.  I’m not a fan of all of the guns that we have in our society and I question why anyone needs to own an assault rifle.  What I do know is that there are literally millions of these guns out there that have never been used in a crime.  This is not sticking behind the old cliché that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  That’s not even true because there are plenty of people who don’t kill people.  It is sinfully depraved people who kill people.

We are all sinful people in need of forgiveness, so it takes a certain level of sinfulness to perpetrate the kind of acts that we have seen in our country lately.  We can point to all kinds of reasons why people get this way – violent video games, the breakdown of the family, poor leadership, etc.  We are still responsible for our own actions.  No matter what kind of upbringing we had and what kinds of things we may have been subjected to, we all still have the opportunity to say no to sin.

I can reach no other conclusion than the fact that people who are behind such terrible tragedies can only do so because they have lost all hope.  They see nothing to look forward to and no reason to press on with life.  This is the connection between the terrible things that we have seen.

What is hope?  We might call hope and expectation that there are better things yet in the future.  Hope is knowing that God loves you.  No matter how worthless you feel or other people have made you feel, God still loves you.  Hope is knowing that no matter what your past is, no matter what you may have done, God forgives you.

Hope is knowing that even if life isn’t going the way you had hoped, God still has a plan for your life.  Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Hope is knowing that God counts us as a treasured possession.  What is a treasured possession?  Years ago my mother babysat my cousin from the time she was a baby until she was about twelve.  For years, my cousin carried a stuffed rabbit with her.  It started out as cute and pink but over time it started to wear.  To start, it just needed washed.  But then an ear detached and had to be sewn back on.  Then the other ear.  By that point it was a shade of grey that wasn’t coming clean.  The last I recall seeing the rabbit, it was a mangled thing that had been restitched so many times and largely just consisted of a head, two arms, and two legs.  But my cousin loved the rabbit still.  If it got left at our house, even though she was returning the next day, my aunt had to turn around to get the rabbit.

This is what it means to be a treasured possession.  There was no one else who could possibly love that rabbit like my cousin did.  Long before it reached its final mangled stages, I couldn’t have paid someone to take it if I set it out at yard sale.

God loves us as a treasured possession.  Others may view us as dirty, worthless, mangled things that are without value.  God looks upon us and sees His image because we were created in His image.  We are not just an object of value, we are something that God would pay the ultimate price for, His Son.

Christmas is a time of hope because it is the time that we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  This is not just the birth of a man.  Jesus is the validation of God’s love for us.  There is no good reason why God should love us.  We are sinful people whom God loves anyway.  Jesus was sent into the world as God’s solution for sin.

God didn’t send Jesus because we needed a great teacher.  We don’t celebrate the birth of a preacher.  We celebrate the birth of a Savior whose mission on earth was to deal with our sin.

We are going to celebrate communion in a moment.  It is a remembrance of Jesus death on the cross and what He suffered for our sins.  But we need to know that the cross isn’t the end of the Christmas story.  Jesus was laid in a tomb but that wasn’t where He stayed.  Jesus was resurrected and our hope lies in the resurrection as well.

We look forward to the day that we are united with Christ through the resurrection as well.  The ultimate hope of humanity is that death is not the end of the story just as it wasn’t for Jesus.  We have the hope of heaven awaiting for all those who have trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.

This is the hope of Christmas.  It starts in a manger and leads to the cross.  But it ends with an empty tomb.

While we celebrate Christmas, it is appropriate that we celebrate the reason that Jesus came into the world.  We were given a way to remember the work of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper which we will celebrate now.

Paul gives us further instructions on how we ought to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

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