Christmas Hope

Christmas 2011 #3: An exposition of 1 Peter 1:3-12. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, December 18, 2011.

Have you ever lost hope?  Have you ever been in the midst of a situation when there appeared there was nothing you could do?  Overwhelmed you just threw up you hands and said, “I quit?”  As far as you could tell there was no reason for going on.  You were just too tired to care and besides it just wasn’t worth the effort.  Have you been there?  Are you there now?  The loss of hope is a devastating thing.  Hopeless people do desperate things.  Hopelessness and despair are major killers.  Hope isn’t just something that helps us over the hurdle – it is essential to life.  Hope is necessary for survival.  Without hope life is a dark and grim existence.  Studies have shown that this time of year is one of the most depressing.  For all the talk of “Christmas cheer” and the joy of the season – vast numbers of people find the Christmas season unbearable.  How ironic that there would be such despair during the celebration of life’s coming to earth!  That is what Christmas is all about.  A world wrapped in death and heartache was awakened by the arrival of the Creator come to redeem for himself a people for his own glory.  The good news announced that night on the starlit plains of Bethlehem was that a Savior had been born who is Christ the Lord.

The Creator had stepped into his creation to fix what had been broken.  His birth was not like ours – his was an advent, a coming.  And he came on a mission.  The joy, laughter and celebration of Christmas means nothing apart from the meaning and purpose of his coming.  The angel said to Joseph, “You are to call his name Jesus for he will save his people.”  He came to rescue us.  He came to deliver us.  He came to give us hope.  If I’m ever stuck in an elevator and I push that button and tell them I’m in car number 6 in building number 3 – I’m not interested in feeling a hand on my shoulder and a fellow passenger say, “I feel your pain.”  I want to hear a voice from outside that car say, “We know where you are.  We are working on it now and we will have you out in 5 minutes.”  It’s nice to have someone who shares your burden it is better to have someone who gives you hope.

Webster defines hope as:
“A desire accompanied by an expectation.”
“A belief in fulfillment.”
“To expect with confidence.”

In an increasingly despairing world where are we going to find hope?  War rages.  Threats abound.  Cherished beliefs are mocked.  Traditional values crumble.  Our once dominant worldview is marginalized.  Where do we turn?  Well we find some help from a wise old man.  He wasn’t a king or philosopher.  He was not a sage or guru.  He was a fisherman.  A man who traveled the road of despair but joyously found a way out.  His name was Peter.  Our text this morning is found in 1 Peter chapter 1.

Text: 1 Peter 1:3-12
This time of year provides us a great opportunity.  It gives us an opportunity to tell others why we sing, why we celebrate, why we have hope.  And it is not in a general feeling of goodwill.  It is not because of a jolly old man in a red suit.  Let’s face it, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer might make for an enjoyable evening but when the doctor says, “We’ve got to operate and it doesn’t look good” – Rudolf’s not going to sustain you!  When that envelop that you thought contained your Christmas bonus turns out to be your “pink slip” – “Have a Holly, Jolly, Christmas” will not lift your spirits.

What is it that will sustain you?
What is it that will grant you peace of mind and heart during the darkest night?
What enables you to stand firm when all hell breaks loose?

It is the knowledge that we are not alone.  That unto us has been born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  Not just a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger but one who grew to manhood; lived a sinless life; perfectly obeyed God’s law; and then gave himself for your sin and your rebellion and offers you life eternal and abundant.

Peter was a follower of Jesus.
He came to Jesus through the efforts of his brother Andrew.
He was a mixture of courage and daring yet he lacked consistency.
He was quick to speak but often slow to think!
On the night our Lord was betrayed Peter pledged to “die for him.”
Yet before the evening was over he denied even knowing him.

It is hard to imagine Peter’s pain as a result of denying Jesus.
Immediately he went out and wept bitterly.
We can only imagine the pain of seeing his Lord crucified.
The despair of seeing his lifeless body limp on the cross.
And then came that word – “I am alive.  Go.  Tell my disciples and Peter.”

Hope was reborn in the heart of that despairing, defeated disciple.
Now, years later, as an old man he is writing to believers in the face of despair.
Persecution, pain and suffering await them.
Peter says to these hurting, struggling believers, “There is hope.”

The words of Peter echo through the centuries bringing encouragement and life to embattled believers today.  His words, inspired of the Holy Spirit remind us that:

Thesis: Hope is the birthright of the child of God.
Regardless of your circumstance, regardless of how dark your world may seem – there is hope.  Hang on.  Only believe.  I know that sounds simplistic.  And I’m not talking about “positive thinking” or “possibility thinking”.  I’m talking about biblical thinking.  I’m not suggesting that you “suck it up” and just get on with it.  I’m asking you to remember what is yours because of Christ!  I know there are those who do not believe that “doctrine” is practical.  I know there are those who prefer messages that deal with “real life issues” but consider this.  Peter is writing to a group of folks who are in desperate times.  Facing life and death issues and he begins by making a profound doctrinal statement about the nature of salvation!  And by the way he doesn’t talk to them about salvation because they are going to need it after they die – but because they are going to need it in order to live!

There are four things I want you to see related to our hope in Christ.

  1. Our hope is anchored in God’s gracious work of redemption.  (1:3-5)
  2. Our hope is fortified through adversity.  (1:6-7)
  3. Our hope is secured by saving faith.  (1:8-9)
  4. Our hope has been the focus of God’s progressive revelation.  (1:10-12)
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