Cheney United Methodist Church
Monday, January 22, 2018
Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

December 3, 2017

12-3-17
Mark 13:24-31. 
“Come Home for Christmas: And Fill Your Cup with Hope!”

During the four Sundays of Advent we will look at coming Home for Christmas and we will explore how (hope, peace, joy and love) can make our experience more meaningful. The youth got us started with a short video. Hope carries a sense of trust, patient expectation, longing and desire. In the New Testament Paul refers to the return of Christ as “our blessed hope.”

For our purposes here, “Come Home for Christmas” has two meanings. The first, is the practical meaning of the fellowship, good memories and the positive feelings of coming home to family and friends. Now I have been around long enough to know not every house is a happy home. I can pray and hope that sometimes coming home for Christmas is a chance to reconnect and restore relationships --and that is a good thing.

Let's fill a cup of hope, the idea is family and friends sitting around and talking about what is most important. What are the values that you hold deeply? How does God influence and shape your life? Christmas is coming it's easy to get focused on gifts. God is very generous, and Christmas is a good time to give gifts, to think of others and make the season special.

This first sense of hope, the hope for a better life, better circumstances in the here and now. We can find comfort in the familiar and in the love and support of family and friends --which is worth coming home for.

The Second meaning for “Coming Home for Christmas” helps us look at how our lives are better because Jesus Christ was born. How does Christmas change our hope? And how does the promise of His return become our “Blessed Hope?”

Luke 2:1-7, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Perhaps you know the story of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was a carpenter and was betrothed to Mary, a teenage virgin. The angel Gabriel tells her she will give birth to God's Son. For Joseph it could be scandalous until he also has an angel visit him and explain that Mary is carrying God's baby. I read this early section of the birth story to think about the hope this couple might have shared.

The baby would be born in a different town, people wouldn’t know their situation, or know their story. So, they could have hope for a new beginning. The baby being born, would change everything- because of the uniqueness of their situation, visitations from an angel, God telling them, this is His Son, they could choose to live with hope. God is about to do something good!

As you look at a tree, and see the leaves changing color, you know that winter is near. Mark’s gospel uses a fig tree, and to show us that we can learn to read the signs and know that summer is near. In the same way we look at our world with earthquakes, drought and famine, and escalating violence, wars and rumors of wars, economic pressures, the fall of governments, severe moral decline, our world is in a mess. The signs tell us that Jesus is coming soon. We need a righteous King to come in power and justice to bring peace to our world. The time of our blessed hope, the return of Jesus is sooner than it has ever been before! God is about to do something good!

I want to explore with you: what is it that you are hoping for right now? What are the hopes you have for your children? For your family? What are your hopes for your spouse? What do you hope for, for you? Do you have any longings and anticipation for your work? Have you started to long for retirement? What is the hope that you keep coming back to, that occupies your mind?

Let’s change gears here. What is your Christian Hope? Do you spend time praying that your children will grow up knowing the Lord and loving Him? Do you pray about the people who will influence your children? Who they will date? Or what talent and skills and spiritual gifts God will help develop in them? Do you speak words of hope into their lives? Do you believe God is about to do something good for them?

What about your spouse--what do you hope for her or him? Do you pray that God’s Spirit would release in them the power to become the person that God created them to be? That you might help them be a better person because of your love and support for them. Do you hope and pray that they them might grow in the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts that God would give to them that they would be more than they dreamed they would be? Do you help them see that God is about to do something good for them?

What is your Christian hope? Do you hope to be blessed by enlarging God’s kingdom and have the joy of leading someone to a saving grace in Jesus Christ? Do you hope that your faith and your witness would help attract others to Jesus, or in some way encourage and strengthen them on their journey?

Let’s Come Home for Christmas and Fill our Cups with Hope! Let our prayers echo Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” May coming home for Christmas be an opportunity to lay down our heavy burdens, and set aside our weariness and find rest and hope in Jesus Christ. That is a worthy prayer for you or for someone you know. Speak into their lives, that God is about to do something good for them.

May our cups be filled with hope as we hear the words from Psalm 27:4-5, 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

This is a Psalm written by David, and he is saying, the most important thing to him--that treasure of the greatest worth and wealth is to seek the Lord, to dwell in His house. His seeking is relentless-- this is the deepest longing and hope of his life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in His holy temple. Nothing compares to living with the Lord for all eternity.

God has already proven to David that he would protect him, shelter him, hide him in a secret place; then at the right moment--the time of God’s choosing, the Lord would elevate David and put him on a high rock for all to see.

Our Christmas hopes begins with a Savior--the very one who makes all hope possible. Christmas is meaningless without God’s gift of His Son. But if you have His Son, all hope is possible. This Christmas may you know that God is about to do something good for you!