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“A Season of Hope”
Luke 1:39-56


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Advent Service II—December 8, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

We continue our Advent sermon series: “A Season of Faith”; “A Season of Hope”; “A Season of Love.”

The Advent-Christmas season is perhaps most of all “A Season of Hope.”  For during Advent we remember the hope of the people of old, their hope that the long-awaited, promised Messiah would come.  And at Christmas we rejoice in the fulfillment of that Messianic hope, in the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem.  As this evening’s opening hymn says, “For lo, the days have come to pass, by prophets seen of old, when down into the circling years, came Christ as was foretold.”

The centuries just before the birth of Christ are often called, even by secular historians, the “Messianic era.”  Because, throughout the world there was an eager expectation among people, of all nations and religions, that soon a Messiah would come to save the world.  It was not just the ancient people of God, the Hebrews, who had this longing for a Messiah.   The Apostle Paul says in Romans that all creation “waits in eager expectation” for the Second Coming of Christ, and so it was with his first coming.  For, in the centuries “B.C.,” before Christ, Messianic expectations were a world-wide phenomenon, even among the pagans and heathen.

This is what the Roman poet Virgil wrote about 50 years before Christ’s birth: “The Son shall lead the life of gods . . .  The jarring nations he in peace shall bind, and with paternal virtues rule mankind. . . earth shall . . . bring . . . her . . . offerings to her infant King.”

The Greek Sibylline Oracles of the 2nd and 1st centuries before Christ said: “From every land they shall bring frankincense and gifts . . .  Rejoice, O Virgin, for to you the Creator of heaven and earth has given everlasting joy.  And in you he shall dwell . . .”

Isn’t that amazing!  And of course the Hebrew prophets also foretold the Messiah’s coming, in amazing detail.

He will be born of a Virgin, Isaiah, chapter 7: “The Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

He will be born in Bethlehem, Micah, chapter 5: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

The Messiah will be God in human flesh, Isaiah, chapter 9: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

The ancient people of God and the entire world were waiting eagerly in hope for the Messiah.  Then, finally, one night in a field near Bethlehem, the angel announced to the shepherds: “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

The shepherds understand the world-wide significance of the angel’s wonderful announcement.  The Desire of the Ages, the long-awaited Messiah, is born. “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.” 

Soon, Wise Men representing kings from the East come and bow down before him with their gifts, as Psalm 72 prophesied, “Kings . . . will present him gifts, all kings will bow down before him.”

This Child, the Babe of Bethlehem, is the fulfillment of all the hopes and expectations of the Messianic era.  “For lo, the days have come to pass, by prophets seen of old . . .  The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”  God fulfilled his ancient promise and sent his Son to save the world, to save you and me.  The Babe of Bethlehem is the fulfillment of all the hopes of the Messianic era, and he is the fulfillment of your hopes too.

Your hope to be forgiven.  As Paul says in Titus, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all mankind.”  “Joy to the world, the Savior reigns.”  This Babe was born for you, to live and die and rise again as payment for your sin. “What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s Lap is sleeping? . . .  Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you .” 

Peter says in Acts, “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  Through his life, death, and resurrection, you have been made right with God, your sins are all forgiven.  “God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay; remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day. . .  Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.”

The Babe of Bethlehem is the fulfillment of your hope to be forgiven, and your hope to live forever.  “Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice . . .  Now ye need not fear the grave, Jesus Christ was born to save . . .  He opened the heav’nly door, and we are blest forevermore.”  “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay, close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.”

In this evening’s reading, the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth rejoice that the Messiah has finally come, as the Lord promised and the prophets foretold: “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? . . . My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. . .  He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, according to the promise he made to our fathers.”

Just as the hopes of the Messianic era were finally fulfilled in the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, in him you also will find the fulfillment of all your hopes and dreams and desires.

We conclude with a blessing from Romans: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Amen.

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