Now that I have finished reading papers, grading exams and posting grades, I hope to have some leisure time to complete my series on Salvation and begin blogging about other topics that interest me. However, given that this Christmas week, I want to call attention to a series of sermons that I regard as outstanding Advent lessons.
Dean Barham, following the Old Testament texts of the lectionary, has led the Woodmont Hills Church through the season of Advent in December. His lessons, once they are all posted, will be available here.
This past Sunday Dean, by the mercy of God, delivered a powerfully moving lesson. It was one of the best “Christmas” sermons I had ever heard (or preached myself!). Focusing on Isaiah 9:2-9, Dean reminded us that this child was born in darkness but was also the ray of hope’s light in that darkness. To people who hear the announcement and see (or believe in) the birth of the child, this son is “wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace and everlasting father.”
This child will reign as a wise visionary with a goal (wonderful counselor), a powerful and effective ruler (mighty God), a just and peaceful ruler (prince of peace), and a faithful lover who will never abandon us (everlasting father).
Nation after nation has longed for such a ruler. Even Americans long for the next Lincoln, or JFK or Ronald Reagan….and some even believe they found him in our current President. Story after story in both Scripture (Abraham & Sarah, Moses, David…) and among the nations have found hope in the birth of a child…the hope that another would come who would be a light in the darkness.
The birth of Jesus is our hope. To us a child has been given. In the midst of darkness–whatever shape that darkness may take–God gives a child who embodies hope. Wars will cease; injustice will not last; oppression will end, and death will not win. Hope dispels despair and empowers life.
Hope changes the world. Real hope, that is, not a false one to which all nationalism clings. Our hope is the son of David, Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, served among the hopeless in the Galilee of the Gentiles, crucified by Romans but raised from the dead by the Father through the power of the Spirit. This is real hope.