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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Christ Our Hope is Born - Christmas in July

Isaiah 9:6

            Christmas is a time of hope and joy.  It’s a time for people to love and give.  It’s a time when families come together and a also a time when we remember we are all part of one big, human family.  Christmas reminds us of these truths, but these are virtues we need all year long.  We need Christmas in July—especially this year.  We've had a lot of reasons to lose hope.  Our world seems to be more filled with violence, terrorism, hate, fear, anxiety, and anger than ever before.  We need to hear the angels singing:  “Joy to the world!  Peace on earth and goodwill towards men!"  We have reason to hope today, because Christ our hope was born.
            I have a question I want you to ponder in our message today.  Are you hoping in the right things?  For if you are hoping in the right things, your hope will not be disappointed, but if you are hoping in the wrong things then you have cause for concern.
            Listen to the Word of God in Isaiah 9:6, a prophecy about Jesus given over 500 years before his birth.  Isaiah tells us about the hope we can find in Christ.

Isaiah 9:6
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Let’s look at a few key ideas this passage tells us about our hope in Jesus.

The government will rest upon his shoulders…
            I didn’t watch either the republican national convention or the democratic national convention.  Although I was curious, I consciously chose not to watch.  I findthat right now the news cycle only feeds my worldly anxiety, anger, and fear of our world’s current situation.  I can find out all I really need to know to be informed by listening to the news highlights each day.  This keeps me informed without overwhelming me with a deluge of negativity.
            Both the RNC and the DNC are just prime time infomercials for their candidates.  Both parties spend millions in a very strategic effort to sell their candidate to the American people.  However, when you look past all the glitz and glamour, it’s basically a week long pep rally for people to cheer for their political team.  Don't be fooled; not a lot of honest, unbiased information gets shared at a political convention.  I didn’t watch and I don’t feel like I missed anything important.  As I said, I picked up what I need to know from the news highlights.
            Isaiah prophesied, “The government will rest upon his shoulders…”  He’s talking about Jesus.  Isaiah didn’t mean that a “worldly government” would rest upon Jesus' shoulders.  In other words, it is not God’s ultimate plan that some worldly government will fulfill God’s plans—whether it be a king in Jerusalem or even American democracy.  All human governments are flawed.  America—though I believe it is the best “worldly” system implemented so far—is still seriously flawed because it is the product of flawed, fallen people.  God has something infinitely better in mind.
            Isaiah reveals God’s ultimate plan is for Jesus to rule the world.  Our faith teaches us that one day Jesus will return and personally govern the whole world.  I long for that day.  And let me tell you something, America will no longer exist in the end.  So don’t get your hopes too caught up in our government.  Be a good citizen.  Be informed.  Do your duty.  But don’t place your hopes in a flawed worldly government that can’t deliver and will soon pass away.  Jesus is the great GOVERNOR, the Lord we need and long for in this mixed up and crazy world.  Isaiah tells us who Jesus is.

He is the Wonderful Counselor.
            Jesus wisdom and understanding are awe inspiring.  No longer will we have to worry if our president is someone who has the knowledge to run the country—handling the wide range of very different but equally important issues like foreign policy, economics, law and order, immigration, the military, and politics.  We will not have to worry if our leader will be careless or dishonest or embarrassing.  Jesus will rule with wisdom, inspiring awe and confidence and wonder in everyone.

Jesus is also Mighty God.
            Jesus is all powerful.  Not only does Jesus know what to do; he has the power to do it.  He will subdue all his enemies, provide safety for all his people, and build his eternal Kingdom.  We never need to doubt Jesus' ability to deliver, because Jesus is mighty God.

Jesus is also Everlasting Father.
            I don’t know about you, but I have never thought of our presidents as “fathers.”  I have viewed them as important people, as world leaders, as politicians, but never as a father.  We have no real access to our presidents (unless you have thousands of dollars to buy a ticket to some fundraising banquet).  They are people we see on TV, or perhaps passing through town in a guarded motorcade, behind tinted glass in an armored limousine.  They are unapproachable.
            Not so with Jesus.  Isaiah describes him as a father.  Not everyone has had an intimate father, but ideally a father is someone you can hug and have tickle fights with or when you get older, you call them up and share your joys, concerns, or just talk.  A good father is one who will personally come and help you fix your broken car or take you to a daddy/daughter dance.  A good father is loving and protecting and he is there when you need him or want him.
            Fatherhood is the image of Jesus and how he will govern us.  However, unlike earthly fatherswho are good one day and irritable the next, who get tired and lose patience, who grow feeble with age and eventually pass awayJesus is an everlasting father.  He will never grow old or feeble.  He will never die.  He will never grow weary of us or lose patience.  He will always be there, always be patient, always be good, always be reliable, always be loving, always, always, always.

And Jesus is the Prince of Peace
            When Jesus rules, there will be peace and not war.  No more mass shootings.  No more violence.  No more racial strife.  No more unrestrained anger.  No more terrorist or fear of terrorism.  The peace Jesus brings is more than just worldly peace.  For he said, “The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.”  (John 14:27)  The world offers a kind of peace, but not like Jesus.
            Worldly peace often just means keeping the status quo.  It means nothing changes.  Things stay the same and so are reliable and people can continue on with their own lives.  That’s OK if your life is decent, but what if you are suffering or if you are oppressed or if your life could be better?  Wars and fighting and strife usually happen because someone somewhere feels it is the only way to better their situation.  Often, our “worldly” peace actually bars other people from the justice they deserve.
            Jesus offers more than just worldly peace.  Jesus will bring inner peace, true serenity, happiness, and joy like we rarely ever experience on earth.  Jesus brings peace to everyone—no more “haves” and “have nots”.  Everyone will experience peace.  No longer will it be the “pursuit of happiness”.  Most of us don’t even know what will make us truly happy and yet we chase after happinessworrying and toilingand most of us never really find it.  Jesus knows what will make you truly happy.  And when Jesus is Lord, we will be done with this relentless, exhausting, and futile chasing for happiness.  We will find it all when Jesus is Lord.

            It’s Christmas in July.  Remember that Christ our hope was born.  “And the government will rest on his shoulders.  And he will be called:  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
            We have all this to look forward to when Jesus ultimately comes to set up his kingdom.  But what about now?  I have good news for you.  You don’t have to wait until Jesus returns to experience his Kingdom.  You don’t even have to wait until you die and go to Heaven.  You can experience Jesus’ Kingdom now!  The glorious Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus is Lord now.
            It is not that Jesus will be Lord one day.  He is Lord now.  Just because the world around us and its people are still in rebellion, that does not mean Jesus is not rightful Lord.  He is Lord.  He is patiently calling us all back to him.  Patiently waiting for us to recognize His Lordship.  How long must he wait for you?
            When we become a Christian, we officially recognize Jesus is Lord.  The more we accept Him as Lord—in every area of our life—the more we experience the realities of His Kingdom now.  We experience inner peace.  We find Joy.  We have hope.  We worry less about this world and all its troubles because our hopes are in the eternal Kingdom of God, which will never disappoint, and never pass away!  Take heart oh Christians!  Jesus is Lord, now and forever!  Place your hope him and do not hope in the world!
            And what about you?  You who have never turned your life over to Jesus?  You who are still hoping in vain in this world?  You have trusted in the government and look where it’s got you.  You have trusted in the people of this world, but they let you down.  You have trusted in yourself, but you see how well that’s worked out.   How long will you go on hoping in things that cannot satisfy?  Repent!  Turn your life over to Jesus today!  Trust in Him, for He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

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