Advent Week One

It happens every Christmas. You can count on it. Repeatedly, as the days lead up to Christmas. You hear the big question.
What do you want for Christmas? What do you want me to buy for you this year? It usually involves something materialistic. A toy, a game, jewelry, clothing, some gadget of one type or another.
This year I will be asking the question. What do you really want for Christmas?
A few years ago, Barbara Bush was a guest speaker at a service organization in Texas where she told this story about a little boy who wanted a red sled for Christmas. He wrote:
Dear Santa, I really, really want a red sled for Christmas. If you will bring me a red sled, I will be a perfect boy. Whatever my parents ask me to do, I will do immediately, if you bring me a red sled. Santa, I really need a red sled.
The boy signed the letter and mailed it. But them he thought about it. He needed an insurance policy to make sure he was going to get his red sled. So, he went to the den where his family had a manger scene set up. When no one was looking, he grabbed the figurine of Mary. He took it upstairs and hid Mary in his closet.
The boy then went over to his bed, dropped to his knees and said a prayer. God, I hate to get tough, but if you ever want to see your mother again, make sure Santa brings me a red sled for Christmas.
Although, it’s obvious the boy kind of missed the whole meaning of Christmas, he knew what he wanted. Do you know with a certainly like that boy what you want for Christmas? Each week of Advent, let’s ask for something we really, really need.
First of all, this First Week of Advent, let’s ask for the Christmas gift of hope. Unlike a child blowing out the candles on her birthday cake and making a wish, Biblical hope is not vain or fanciful thinking. Instead, hope rests in the sure and confident expectation that God, who sent Christ to pay the penalty for our sins, will meet all our needs both in the present and for all of eternity.
Isaiah is a symbol of faith and hope. He was living in tough times. His people, the Israelites, were under attack and had drifted a longways from God. He saw the need for his people to be called back to God. He heard the call for a prophet to bring back faith and hope and he answered the call. Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
One day, out of the blue, and angel came to Mary with a message. Luke 1 :26-38 God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 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 the Son of God. 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. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Mary teaches us about faith and hope. She always looks so peaceful and beautiful on Christmas cards and as a figurine. But Mary answered the call to bring faith and hope to her people under intense circumstances. A pregnant and unmarried woman during that time must have at the very least made her subject to ridicule, criticism, jokes, gossip and rejection. The long hard journey with Joseph to Bethlehem to register for the census must have been very difficult for her. Then giving birth in a stable.
The remarkable thing is Mary believed what the angel said to her. She had real faith and real hope. She heard God’s word and willing obeyed God’s will for her. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Both Mary and Isaiah were tuned into hearing God’s word. They had faith and were able to hear and respond to God’s will.
Many years ago, when the great missionary, David Livingstone, was serving in Africa, he sent an appeal to England for more workers to help him with his mission work on that continent. An answer came back from England, “We would like to send more workers to help you, but first we must ask, Is there a good road to the outpost?” Doctor Livingstone wrote back these words, “If you are offering to send workers who will come only if the road is easy, tell them to stay home. I can’t use them.”
Mary’s hope and Isaiah’s hope was not hesitant or conditional. In both cases, it was total and complete obedience to God, no matter how rough the road might be. They heard God’s voice and obeyed His will. They took one day at a time and trusted the future to God.
Terry Anderson was serving as the Chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press when he was kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 16, 1985 and he was held captive until his release on December 4, 1991. It was an incredibly difficult ordeal but He came through it with amazing strength. After his release, he was interviewed several times. These are some of his answers to questions about his captivity.
He was asked what enabled him to survive this awful experience. He answered without hesitation, my companions, my faith and my stubbornness. One reporter asked, Terry, you have said that you don’t hate your captors. Can you help us to understand that? Terry Anderson replied, “I don’t hate anyone. I am a Christian and it’s really required of me that I forgive, no matter how hard that might be, and I intend to do that.
He was also asked, Terry, did you ever lose hope? He responded, “Hard question. Of course, I had some blue moments, moments of despair. But fortunately, right after I became a hostage, one of the first things that fell into my hands was a Bible. Over the last six and a half years as a captive, I have spent a lot of time with the Bible…and that helped me so much because it’s about hope. It’s about trust in God and that’s what gave me the strength to make it through each day. And then Terry Anderson said, “You do what you have to do. Faith helps you to do what you have to do. I spent a lot of time with the Bible and it reminded me to do the best I could each day and to trust God for the future.
That’s great hope. The kind of hope Mary and Isaiah had. It’s the kind of hope we need to hear God’s voice, to obey God’s will and to trust God’s power.
MY LIFE IS IN YOU, LORD Daniel Gardner
My Life Is In You, Lord, My Strength Is In You, Lord
My Hope Is In You, Lord, In You, It’s In You
My Life Is In You, Lord, My Strength Is In You, Lord
My Hope Is In You, Lord, In You, It’s In You
I Will Praise You With All Of My Life
I Will Praise You With All Of My Strength
With All Of My Life, And All Of My Strength
All Of My Hope Is In You
But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
Lamentations 3:24



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