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GOD'S GRACE GIVES US JOYFUL EXPECTATION

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

28 NOVEMBER 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 80:17-19
Isaiah 64:1-9
Mark 13:28-33

I suppose all of us gathered here today are aware of what holiday we celebrate on December 25th.

But why do we celebrate Christmas?

Or, more precisely, what is the significance of our celebration?

It is the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

God's gift of Himself, of Jesus Christ, is an immense sign of His abundant grace.

Jesus Christ's birth was the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.

And similarly, today, we have the promise of His return, for which we should be waiting expectantly; and in this we should have hope, no matter what our circumstances may be, for God's grace is still evident.

This is the celebration of our Advent of Jesus' return, as we remember Jesus' first coming.

This is our Hope!

But sometimes the cruelty we see in this world and the frustrations we face from day to day can cause us to forget about God's grace, and thus to lose some or most of our hope.

This is what the psalmist was praying for in Psalm 80. Note what he wrote in verses 17­19:

17. Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand,
Upon the son of man whom Thou didst make strong for Thyself.

The son of God's right hand, the son of man whom God made strong for Himself is a true servant of God, anointed by the Holy Spirit for all good works.

But even such a servant gets depressed at times, and needs further encouragement. He or she needs to feel the hand of God touching them again, even if for just a moment.

18. Then we shall not turn back from Thee;
Revive us, and we will call upon Thy name.

19. O Lord God of hosts, restore us;
Cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

This is the same as saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, and put an end to the pain and suffering of this world. Come and take me home!”

There is a better world ahead for all who receive Him. This is His grace. In this is our hope.

Listen to what Isaiah tells us in 64:1-9.

1. Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down,
That the mountains might quake at Thy presence –

2. As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil –
To make Thy name known to Thy adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Thy presence!

Isaiah didn't have the television or radio we have, or the newspapers and magazines, but he still saw the pain and suffering in the world of both humans and animals.

It seems like human suffering hasn't changed very much in the past 2,700 years, but the suffering of animals has increased a thousand fold, particularly in recent years with the  introduction of factory farms.

And what Isaiah saw caused his soul and spirit to suffer in pain, for he felt what those who suffer feel.

And there are many more just like him in the world today.

He wanted to see an end to it all.

He wanted to see the power and glory of the Lord come down from heaven and put an end to it by so frightening the evil people of this world that they would cease from causing such pain and suffering.

3. When Thou didst awesome things which we did not expect,
Thou didst come down, the mountains quaked at Thy presence.

But why does the world always seem to need such a dramatic demonstration of God's power?

Why don't we simply remember who He is, and act as He desires us to act: with unconditional love and compassion toward all of His creation?

Isaiah answers why we are the way we are:

4. For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear,
Neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.

Isaiah is speaking of God's grace. There is only one God, and He does fulfill all His promises.

Who He is and what He has done is plainly evident, if we care to see it; but far too many people don't see or hear, even though they have eyes and ears.

And because of the way we are as a society, Isaiah reminds us of God's response:

5. Thou dost meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness,
Who remembers Thee in Thy ways.

This is what God wants from all of us.

But if we were perfect and never sinned, there wouldn't be any need of God's grace.

But we all have sinned, and it's with this recognition that we call to remembrance the ways of the Lord.

Behold, Thou wast angry, for we sinned,
We continued in them a long time;
And shall we be saved?

This sure sounds a lot like the world today; and Isaiah wrote of his time, 2,700 years ago.

We haven't changed very much, have we?

6. For all of us have become like one who is unclean [or like one who still has unrepentant sins within them],
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

God gave us life as a new leaf sprouts forth upon a tree. It grows large and green, and soaks up the energy of the sun, and is washed clean by the rain.

But then comes the end of the season and the leaf withers and falls off.

We, likewise, bring an end to our growing season when we sever ourselves from the Lord through our ungodly ways.

And as the fallen leaf is blown away from the tree, so are we blown further away from the Lord.

But, there comes that day when we come to our senses, and realize what we've lost.

We look around, and all we see are lost souls, like ourselves, and we begin to call out to the Lord for our salvation.

7. And there is no one who calls on Thy name,
Who arouses himself to take hold of Thee;
For thou hast hidden Thy face from us,
And hast delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

At times like these we must remember that it isn't the Lord who left us, but it is we who left the presence of the Lord.

It's just as with the leaves and the tree. The tree didn't walk away from the fallen leaves. The tree is still where it always was. It is the leaves that have blown away.

8. But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father,
We are the clay, and Thou our potter;
And all of us are the work of Thy hand.

9. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord,
Neither remember iniquity forever;
Behold, look now, all of us are Thy people.

Our hope is that the Lord does hear such prayers said in sincerity.

Our hope is in knowing that the Lord's grace will forgive us.

Our hope is in knowing that the Lord will come again and put an end to all the suffering in the world, and make a better life for all believers, and the innocent ones who suffer.

And if we are truly sensitive people, our soul is constantly crying out, "Even so, come now, Lord Jesus!"

So we anxiously wait for His coming, not really knowing when it will be, but hoping nevertheless.

In Mark 13:28-33, Jesus tells us of the day of his return, but not the date or the hour.

28. ''Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.

29. "Even so, you too, when you see these things happening [the signs of the end times He has told us about], recognize that He is near, right at the door.

30. "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Was the beginning of these signs the restoration of the state of Israel?

If so, we are that generation, and we will not all pass away before He comes again.

But even if it wasn't the beginning of the end, still hold fast to your hope, for Jesus will indeed come again, just as He promised.

31. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away [says the Lord].

32. But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

33. "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.

This promise of God is His grace.

It is His grace that gives us hope, a hope filled with joyful expectation.

This is the Advent we are celebrating.

And it is a truly Merry Christmas to behold!

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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