This is what I decided to do for my prayer group session that I led last week. Its from my notes so isnt alwyas in full sentences...
13th Dec 2010
Advent: Hope. Expectation. Anticipation. Preparation
I wasn’t really sure what to talk about tonight. So I asked God for guidance and I felt that as we are in this period of Advent that would be a good starting point. So I’m not going to look at just one scripture passage but couple! And while I’ve been researching this I kind of knew what God was pointing me to, but I couldn’t quite put it all together. Then Yesterday at church a friend gave me this tea towel! (explanation: from an org called ‘not washed up yet’ it’s a kind of ministry!) and the card with it says this:
At Christmas Hope came down – that is what Christmas is all about.
It is about Jesus
In the midst of the dressing up, washing up, wrapping up, even paying up, do not be slow to look for this HOPE – to go after it, this HOPE that does not disappoint, that changes everything, that brings light in our darkness, that rescues us from distress.
So, the passages that I have picked out are going to help us focus on that Hope that Jesus has given us and how we can live it in our lives. I’m not going to talk for long because what I want is for US to focus on that. So once I’ve finished I’d like us to split into groups and talk about our own Hopes, what we are hoping in Jesus for and then we can pray about them too…
As it says on the card, this time of year, Advent, for most of us it is so chaotic, All the Christmas preparation, sending cards, buying gifts, baking, cleaning, nativity plays, the list is endless and yet really Advent, whilst it is a time of preparation is also a time of anticipation, of hoping, waiting for the arrival of our King. Not just 2000 years ago, but also that in that hope he still gives us that he will come again.
The dictionary says:
v. hoped, hop·ing, hopes
1. To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.
2. Archaic To have confidence; trust.
Aren’t they perfect definitions for this time of year?
Luke 1 : 26-38
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
We’ve all heard this loads of time I’m sure! Not a huge amount to add but it’s a good starting point! - As soon as the angel had appeared to Mary, for her began a time of waiting, expecting, literally! but actually this time of waiting had begun hundreds of years earlier. Mary must have had hope. Unmarried mother, stigma, she has to trust and hope in her God to guide her.
The Old Testament prophets forsaw the arrival of a Messiah that would come to earth as King. Specific in Isaiahs baby born to virgin.
Isaiah has some wonderful passages about the coming of the Lord… Showing the Hope that he and others had in God.
Isaiah 11 (New International Version, ©2010)
Isaiah 11: 1-9
The Branch From Jesse
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
What an amazing passage, showing the hope that they had… the first part talks about the messiah and what he will be like
Beginning talking of Messiah - stump – something cut down yet new life can come from this. Previous rulers/chaos. Also Christ – at the crucifixion. But… Christ is that branch… amazing description – like Isaiah is describing the most perfect person he can imagine, because of course he hasn’t heard about Jesus’ birth yet… which is exactly what Christ is.
and the second from v 6 talks about the world with the messiah in it. And actually could refer to the second coming, the new world… V 6 – 9 showing an idyllic world. One that can exist with Christ in it.
The Old Testament shows us that the history of Israel was not a peaceful one. There was much bloodshed, war and disobedience to God (perhaps rather like now…). The history of the area particularly shows that for hundreds of years Israel lived under threat of war or was actually at war. Focussing on God at such a time, you can imagine must have been very hard. But there were those with faith and with hope and the OT is full of references to the coming of the Messiah in whom they could put their hope. Through that belief they could imagine a different way of life
Commentary by Dennis Bratcher… quote:
‘Israel was weary of war and threat, weary of the divisions that had torn her country apart after Solomon, weary of the instability of a world in which power and the oppression that it brings were the controlling factors in the world. Some, like Isaiah knew that God's vision of the world was much different. They knew that the God they served was the same God who had heard the cries of oppressed slaves in Egypt and entered history to relieve their oppression. And they knew that because God was such a God, he would not forever tolerate oppression in the world.
And so they hoped. And they dreamed. They dreamed of a time when God would enter the world and bring an end to war and suffering, when he would establish his reign on earth and restore all creation to what he intended it to be.'
And that is what Isaiah is talking about here in v 6-9. He is dreaming, hoping of a new world in which God is sovereign, in which ‘6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,’
And isn’t that what we hope for today? We can today draw encouragement from this passage too, because it can also be prophesying (as it says in rev) A new heaven and a new earth, (Revelation 21:1-2)
on Gods ‘ holy mountain, where the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord’…
What a great hope to have!
Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace, and as we look forward to Christmas we eagerly anticipate the day of his birth when we celebrate with our friends and family, but we can always, also be eagerly anticipating the peace that he brings to all, its like we have a taster of what is to come. We can have the dream that Isaiah had. We don’t know when it will be, but we hope and we dream expectantly.
And as we look around us today sometimes situations seem totally hopeless, but actually through Christ we do have hope.
Example: my trip to London with woman from church we visited.
Finish with scriptures… each reading one out – to focus on that HOPE before we split into groups.
Peace and Hope
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
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.
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.
5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. 6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
Our hopes for the coming year/illness/work. breakthrough… pray through…