O HOLY NIGHT:A Thrill of Hope

We want to invite you into the Christmas story.  The story of Christmas involves some waiting.  It involves some anticipation.  Come Thou, long expected Jesus.  O come, o come, Emmanuel.  Come divine Messiah.  As we look at the story again from different angles, we wanted to invite you back into the tension of that waiting period.  I think it’s something we all can relate to and if we bypass it in the Christmas story, then I don’t know if we hear the story well.

I was that thinking about that idea of hope again this year.  I was reminded of a number of years ago when I went to visit my friend in southern California.  We went to Knott’s Berry Farm together.  At Knott’s Berry Farm back then, there was this ride called “Montezuma’s Revenge.”  Montezuma’s Revenge is a one-loop roller coaster.  That’s it.  When you get on the ride…..any roller coaster fans out there?…..so you know that click-click-click-click-click and your heart just starts pounding.  We are on Montezuma’s Revenge.  We lock in and it starts to click-click-click-click-click-click (Ryan is climbing a rung of a ladder on each “click”.)   At that point, I look at my friend and go oh, yeah!!!  I’m a little bit afraid of heights anyway, but I’m like here we go!  Montezuma’s Revenge!  At the very moment that that little lever was suppose to release to launch us into our destiny of….wheee!  Something happened.  The lever didn’t release.  A voice comes over the speaker and says, “We’re having some technical difficulties.  We’re going to get it resolved as quickly as possible.”  We yell back that would be nice!  Over an hour later they got it resolved!!  So we’re sitting up there and it’s just this tension of I know what I’m suppose to do and I know where this is suppose to go, but the waiting is just absolutely excruciating.

I thought about that and I think that’s a picture of hope.  If you were to look up “hope” in the dictionary, the way it’s defined is hope is a desire for, or expectation of good.  But implicit within the definition of hope is that you don’t currently have it.  Look at the way the Scriptures unpack hope.  In Romans 8:24, Paul writes to the church at Rome and says:  For in this hope we were saved. {He’s talking about Jesus and the hope of the gospel.}  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  

Here’s the problem, though.  We wish that God would just fulfill our every hope and our every dream.  Can I submit to you that while He doesn’t answer every hope, He answers the hope underneath everything.  And every hope that we have, He’s with us and He’s for us.  I love the way that John says it in his nativity account (John 1:4-5):  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. {Notice those verbs are both past tense.  He’s talking about creation.}  The light shines {That’s present tense.  The light shines as in it’s still shining.}  …in the darkness…  {And if anyone knew darkness, it was John.  The religion that he’d grown up around, being a Hebrew, being an Israelite, was almost decimated.  Most likely, at the time of his writing this, the Temple had been destroyed.  It had been leveled.  If there was anybody that could have said listen, hope is too hard to manage and hold onto, it would have been John.  But he says the light shines in the darkness.}  …and the darkness has not overcome it.  Somebody say amen.  That’s the hope of Christmas, friends.  Is that the King of kings and the Lord of lords steps into our darkness, steps into our need, steps into our despair and He breathes hope and as dark as the darkness gets, and it may be really, really dark in your life right now, the light will not be overcome.  I want to invite you….the gap in your life might be the size of the Grand Canyon, where you’re going God, my hopes were up here.  My expectations were up here and my reality is so far down I have a hard time seeing it.  Here’s what we tend to think.  What we tend to think is that the ladder of Christmas is for us to tie up our boots really tight and start hiking.  There is a ladder in the Christmas story.  But the ladder in the Christmas story isn’t for you to do good and for you to do better and for you to get your act together, because we’d be waiting a long time for that.  The ladder in the Christmas story is not for you to climb up.  The ladder in the Christmas story is for God to climb down and to enter into the brokenness and to enter into the pain and to enter into your story and declare over you it’s safe to hope.  You can let your heart go there, because the King of kings and the Lord of lords entered in.  He is God for you and He is God with you.  And if you don’t know Him, my guess is the gap between your reality and your expectations is almost unmanageable.  We’re celebrating Him.  This is His birthday party.  I’m glad you’re here to celebrate the birth of the King.  The One who comes not to receive gifts, but the One who comes to BE a gift.  Some of you have let go of hope because you’ve lost sight of the Messiah, I just want to point Him back out to you tonight.  He’s beautiful and He says listen, I know that hope is hard to hold onto, but it’s necessary to have and you can continue to have it because I’m a God who loves you and is for you and is in the mess of whatever you’re walking through….right in the middle of it.  Would you turn to Him and put your faith in Him?

Listen to the way that Paul invites us to this life in Romans 15:13—May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.. {So as we come to this God who’s a God that wants to shower us with hope—that’s what the Christmas story is all about..it’s safe to hope—we are filled with joy and peace.}  …so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound {That’s overflowing.  A tidal wave into a little drinking cup.  That’s what he’s talking about.}  ….you may abound in hope.   The King has come.  God with you.  God for you.  I don’t know what you’re waiting on tonight and I don’t know what you’re anticipating.  I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but I know that Christmas declares over you there’s a God who waits with you and who you can put your trust and confidence in.  He declared it in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  He gave His life to seal it and prove it and He walked out of the grave to make it yours.  Would you come to Him tonight?  He’s worthy of your hope. He’s worthy of your hope.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, we don’t want to be people that just stick our head in the sand and are ignorant of the present circumstances, the ones that are both beautiful and the ones that are ugly and painful.  The ones that are filled with joy and peace and the ones that we struggle to get through.  We don’t want to be ignorant of that, but we also don’t want to be ignorant of the fact that you are in this with us.  That you’re God for us and that you’re God with us.  Jesus, I thank you that this season….Christmas reminds us of the fact that the ladder isn’t there for us to climb up, but the ladder’s there for you to climb down and you enter in.  Because you enter in, it’s safe for us to hope.  I pray over my friends in this room tonight….for those that have let go of hope, maybe because they’ve lost sight of the Messiah or maybe because they’ve never had their eyes on Him long enough to see His beauty and to hear His love.  Lord, would you reawaken our hope tonight.  Would you remind us it’s safe to hope, because you’re a God who’s already answered the deepest longings of our soul.  Thank you for inviting us into Your story.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.