As a pastor, there have been times in my life when I have staggered under waves of discouragement. There are those Sundays when it seems as though my sermons just dribble out of my mouth, struggle over the pulpit, and die somewhere between me and the congregation. A sense of personal inadequacy for the tasks of pastoral duty feeds a sense of hopelessness that I'll ever really do this job justice. Not often, but every once in a great while I feel like David when he wrote in Psalm 25:
The good news? I know I'm not alone. Many Christians, when faced with crisis and just plain ‘ol every day stress, struggle regularly with a feelings of hopelessness. The tell-tail signs are the heavy sighs that issue from our lips at the end of a busy day.
Outside of the Bible, hope consists of little more than a half-hearted optimism. But that optimism has no firm foundation—no anchor. Hope, as the word is commonly used in our culture today, is little more than wishful thinking.
There is no sense of assurance in any of these statements.
The Bible, on the other hand, reveals a hope that consists of unrelenting, confident faith in God's promises. Listen as the Apostle Peter talks about this hope:
*“Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, he has given us new life and a hope that lives on. God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear. You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day. Then he will save you, just as he has always planned to do.” (1 Peter 1:3–5, CEV)
As we celebrate the Forth Sunday of Advent, we celebrate the promise of a Savior and the Christians hope in Christ. The word Advent literally means coming. With the coming of Christ, therefore, is also the arrival of hope.
For the Christian, life with Christ is an endless hope. For those without Him, life is a hopeless end. That's why we continue our Advent celebration by talking about hope. And no one needed a more sure word of hope more than those lonely shepherds tending their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. These men remind us how men should responded to God's invitation.
#.God's encounter with the shepherds is consistent with His peculiar tendency of invading human history – and human lives – at the most unexpected moments
How have you responded to God's message of hope? It's a message for the ‘down and out' as well as for the ‘up and in'. It's a message you must receive with an open heart, just as the shepherds did. It's a message that will bring joy to your heart and praise to your lips. It's a story that we cannot help but tell to those around us.