Watch and Pray

(Midweek Advent 1: This service was done in conjunction with the Bach Cantata, Wachet! Betet! Betet! Wachet!)

Dear children of God, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text from Romans tonight begins, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And then concludes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

In this the first week of Advent this is certain appropriate as the meaning for the first Advent candle is that of prophecy and hope. The hope of the world is found in the covenant to the God’s people. It’s been there throughout all of history. Just as there were people who didn’t always see it beforehand, so still many do not see it. But it has been and always will be there. It was always God’s plan to provide the hope of all nations.

For indeed, the hope of the Gentiles has come through the fulfillment of the promise to the patriarchs. Eve’s seed, Abraham’s offspring, the root of Jesse – this is Christ Jesus our Lord. He came as the Servant of the Lord, filled with the Spirit, to bring in God’s kingdom of blessing. And as the Suffering Servant, this same Jesus incurred the wrath and opposition of sinful men, who conspired and plotted to destroy him. And they did–so they thought. They took hold of Jesus and sent him off to be killed. Death by crucifixion. But this again was one of God’s ironies. For in that very act of murderous injustice, God used that death of his own beloved Son to bring about the basis for our hope. Christ’s death was the payment for our sins. It brings us forgiveness, and with that removal of guilt before God, so also is death overcome. The resurrection of Christ shows that this is so, for all we who are baptized into Christ will share in his resurrection and his eternal life.

What’s more, God has sent out the good news of this Savior and this salvation to all the ends of the earth. Our ancestors heard about it and were brought into the saving ark of the church. You and I have hope. There is a future in front of us to look forward to. No longer do we face the grim grave and an unknown eternity. Now we have the solid hope of the bodily resurrection and an everlasting future, bright and glorious, joyous, with our Jesus, with our God, with all those patriarchs and prophets, and apostles and ancestors, and grandparents and parents, who shared with us in the same promise of salvation from our gracious God.

Hope. Not in a way that you hope for something for Christmas, but as Luke records in the opening of his Gospel, that you may certainty concerning the things you have been taught. It is the certain hope of Christ. It is the saving Gospel given for you, the narrative that we will read through the coming Sundays and Wednesdays of Luke’s Gospel, the narrative that begins well before the birth in a manger but from the foundations of the world. The certain hope that will carry you through all the pain and adversity that you will face in this life. Even the grave cannot extinguish this hope that God gives you. The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

And now: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Amen.

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