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COMING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS - PART II

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

AND

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

6 DECEMBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Matthew 6:10
            19:25-26
Romans 15:1-13

If any of us are truly coming home for the holidays, then our hearts must be full of hope.

And there is something different about hope; for though we have hope at the present time, it is always about the future.

We can never hope for something in the present.

Nor can we hope for something in the past.

We might wish that something was different, or had turned out in a different way; but we can never change what has passed, for it is locked in time forever.

Hope is always for the future.

And without hope in our hearts, we might actually miss our homecoming.

No matter what mistakes we may have made; no matter what may have gone wrong up to this time, we can always hope for a better tomorrow.

There is nothing beyond our hope of, and in, heaven.

And hope is only fulfilled when we put our complete trust in the Lord our God, and do whatever we can to help it come to fruition.

And this is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He to pray for (Matthew 9:10):

10. Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

So, a large part of hoping for a better tomorrow, is making sure we aren't doing anything that works against that hope and God's heavenly will.

Please turn with me to Romans 15:1-13, and let's see how Paul applied this eternal hope.

1. Now we who are strong ought to bear the weakness of those without strength and not just please ourselves.

2. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.

We might ask, how can we edify ourselves at the expense of a weaker brother or sister?

The answer is that we can't; for to do such a thing cancels love, and without love God is not present; and without the presence of God, there can be no hope.

So, in order to have true hope, we must also have love and compassion for all those who can't fend for themselves, as well as for those who can, which would include every other human being, and every other animal.

To put it another way, how can we love the Lord our God, who we cannot see, if we don't love all of His creation, which is right before our eyes.

Our expression of our true love for God is seen in the ways we express our love for His entire creation.

We are not to use anyone or anything to please ourselves at their expense.

3. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me."

4. For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

We might fail each other; we might even fail God at times, but God and His word will never fail us, and in this is our hope and our homecoming, and the power to overcome our failures.

5. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;

6. that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why we have way-stations along the way to our homecoming, as we do along any of our highways, where the traveler may get food, rest and fuel.

The church is to be that way-station, though at times it hasn't been a very good one because we try to sell incompatible items which only cause problems.

We must strive to be in one accord, with love being our foremost service.

We must not try to refuel a gasoline engine, so to speak, with diesel fuel and expect things to run correctly; for they won't.

We must keep our hope upon our own homeward journey and also that of others, and help each other along the way.

Separately, we stand a chance of missing the mark, but together we will most likely succeed; that is, unless the others are working against the heavenly will of God.

We need the help and companionship of other loving and compassionate people who are truly seeking to have God's heavenly will done here on earth as it is in heaven.

7. Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

8. For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision [or Hebrews] on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,

9. and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,
"Therefore I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles,
And I will sing to Thy name."

10. And again he says,
"Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His People."

11. And again,
"Praise the Lord all you Gentiles,
And let all the peoples praise Him."

12. And again Isaiah says,
"There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles,
In Him shall the Gentiles hope."

Now, remember that in Biblical terms, “Gentile” refers to people of the non-Jewish nations.

And since none of us has yet come home for the greatest of all holidays, and since very few of us are Jewish, it would be best for us to hang on tightly to the hope contained in these verses of Scripture.

For in these verses is the hope of heaven, the hope of our homecoming; and we are to share this hope with believers and nonbelievers, alike.

13. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The God of hope?

Yes, the God of hope; for God has given us his promises, and they will be fulfilled just as He has fulfilled all His past promises.

Hope is a product of our innocence of faith and trust in God; that we don't doubt, but simply believe that all of God's promises will be fulfilled.

And remember, if we are truly hoping for this better tomorrow, we cannot work against it, by contributing to the suffering of others, whether human or non-human.

Along with us, these other beings need to have the strengthening powers of the hope they see in us, so that together we can work for it, and trust in its fulfillment.

Such trust and faith just naturally fill our hearts and souls with such joy and peace, that we are strengthened and abound even more in hope.

In Matthew 19, we are told the story about a rich young man who put his faith and hope in material things.

And when Jesus told him what was required of him, he turned and walked away.

After he left, Jesus explained to His disciples how difficult it is for such a person to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Note the conversation in verses 25-26:

25. And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?"

26. And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

This requires a strong faith and hope, but in this statement of Jesus is the assurance that God can bring what He said to reality, even if we can't; but we must at least try.

Do you remember what we were told in Romans 15:13 that is similar to this statement of Jesus?

"…that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

If we tune our hearts and minds to hear that inner voice of the Holy Spirit, we will be encouraged; we will strengthen our hope.

For all the hopes of tomorrow will come to pass in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then every day will be a truly Merry Christmas.

Amen.

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