(This sermon was preached at our Carol Service on 13th Dec 2015. It is shown here as it was preached that night)
Good evening friends, it’s so nice to have you at our Christmas production 2015, “Christmas Hope – for more than a season”. I want to speak tonight about a hope that lasts beyond a season. One of our musicians told me yesterday that santa seems to be in a hopeless situation this year. Apparently, he had opened a Facebook page at the beginning of this year, and he has been complaining that while he received almost no friend requests till November, that as soon as December arrived, millions of people have been sending him friend requests!!
Around 15 years ago, a popular singer named Shaggy recorded a song called ‘Hope’, in which he talks about how his family lived in a one-room shack, and how his mother worked hard to give her children a life and an education. Besides that, she also gave them some sound advice which went something like this.
PLAY A FLASH OF THE CHORUS OF ‘HOPE’ BY SHAGGY – She said,
Son there’ll be times when the tides are high
The boat may be rocky, you can cry, just never give up
And its hope that keeps me holding on
And this hope that makes me carry on
‘Hope’ is defined as ‘an optimistic attitude, based on an expectation of positive outcomes’, or something close to that.
Today, what are your hopes for Christmas 2015? Is it to do with your job, your career, your future or your family? Maybe some of you were thinking ‘I hope it’s worth my time coming for this program’? Maybe some of you are saying right now ‘I hope this preacher will say something sensible and not bore me?!!!’ Life can only give us so much hope, but today you can find hope for more than a season.
A few minutes ago you heard Shamil Perera (one of our worship team musicians) share how he gave up on religion and church. He dropped out of church and moved away from God. This took him on the pathway to experimenting with drugs, alcohol and bad company. However, after the death of a close friend and after being betrayed by his best friend, God began to open his heart once again. On an invitation, with cynicism in his heart, Shamil attended a small group where he found many young people who were very sincere and genuine in their faith. As a result, he invited Jesus into his heart. He has found meaning to life once again and hope for more than a season. Today, like the song he sang which described his earlier life, called ‘Desperado’, there may be many desperate people here facing desperate situations.
PROPOSITION – The Light of Christmas gives hope for more than a season.
In the passage in Isaiah 9, it talks about the Light that came to the people of Israel, through the Lord Jesus Christ. The passage itself has the following depressing words; ‘gloom’ (Isaiah 9:1), ‘distress’ (vs 1), ‘humbled’ (vs 1), ‘darkness’ (Isaiah 9:2) and ‘the shadow of death’ (vs 2). Into this depressing situation a great Light dawned (vs 2)! This scripture, which was a prophecy regarding the Messiah, was repeated in Matthew chapter 4, when Jesus began His public ministry.Tonight, I would like to share 3 thoughts about what the Light did.
1. THE LIGHT BANISHED THE DARKNESS (VS 1-2)
Vs 1-2 says, ‘there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress’ and that ‘the people walking in darkness have seen a great Light’. A pastor friend of mine reminded me today that darkness comes about in the absence of light, and that even one little matchstick can bring light to a very dark room.
Let me put a small riddle to you. If you were in a very dark room and had a lantern, a lamp and a candle, but only 1 matchstick, which would you light first? Would it be the lantern? Maybe it would be the candle? (Pause). Actually, what you would have to light first would be the matchstick!!
It takes an outside source of light to light up the darkness, and that’s exactly what Jesus did when He came at Christmas time.
Isaiah says, ‘You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of the oppressor’ (vs 4). In vs 6, Isaiah talks about a child who is to be born as the ‘Prince of Peace’ and who is also called ‘Mighty God’.
If you look at the history of the people of Zebulun and Naphtali, you will find that they went through the darkness of a severe betrayal (1 Kings 15:16-21), deportation under the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29-30) and becoming a despised people.
Today, maybe darkness has invaded your life. It could be because of a lost job, a lost loved one, lost health or other disturbing family situations. Isn’t it amazing how our problems seem to look that much more horrible in the dark, when we knock the lights off in our room? Well, if so, let the Light of Jesus shine into your life today. Someone said, “Jesus Christ is the only Light that knows no power failure”! The Apostle John made an astounding statement in John 1:5 which says, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can NEVER extinguish it”. (NLT)
ILLUSTRATION – So, if you are in misery and in darkness right now, let us join together and sing what is identified as the 5th and unknown verse of the Christmas Carol, ‘O little town of Bethlehem’. It says,
When children pure and happy, pray to the blessed Child
When misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild
When charity stands watching, and faith holds wide the door
The darkness wakes, the glory breaks and Christmas comes once more
The Light will surely banish the darkness and give hope. The second thing the Light did, was,
2) THE LIGHT BROUGHT HONOR TO DESPISED PEOPLE (Isaiah 9:1)
The passage in Isaiah refers to the people of Galilee as a ‘humbled’ people (Vs 1). We could even say that they were a despised people. Wasn’t the question asked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there”? (John 1:46) It is to this despised area that Jesus brought such honor (Isaiah 9:1) that Isaiah speaks of the area as being filled with Light (Vs 2). He also talks about increased joy and rejoicing (Vs 3). It’s amazing that the Lord accomplished this even though He was born in a lowly manger and did most of His ministry in a despised backyard!!!
Friend, have you been through some humiliation? Do you feel that you have been despised? Are you carrying a stigma as a result of some failure? Have you lost your honor in some way? Maybe you have made some poor decisions? Whatever your situation may be, Jesus, as the Light of the world, can bring honor and hope back into your life. A quote I came across says, “Our past memories should never be greater than our future dreams”!! Can you dream in a new way during Christmas this year?
ILLUSTRATIONS – I am reminded of the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth as recorded in Luke chapter 1. Being without a child and now old in years, they had no hope of a future lineage. One can only imagine the stigma they went through and what disappointment they faced, since their prayers had not been answered. But God intervened, gave them hope, blessed them with a child (John the Baptist) who shook the religious traditions of Israel, and brought great honor to their lives.
That brings me to my final point.
3) THE LIGHT LIFTED THE SHADOW OF DEATH (Vs. 2)
The shadow of death hangs over all of us. In fact, we have had a number of funerals among our church family during the past few weeks. Those are painful moments for families. Every time I visit a hospital, I see pain and fear on the faces of people due to the possibility of a traumatic report of their medical condition. Death is probably the most difficult challenge we humans have to face.
In spite of the challenge of physical death, an even more dangerous situation arises when we are spiritually dead. In fact, spiritual death means we have sinned against God, and are therefore destined to be separated from His presence forever. However, as a result of Jesus’ birth and subsequent sacrifice, a way was opened for all mankind to receive God’s forgiveness for sin, and the hope of eternal life. Isaiah uses the term ‘Everlasting Father’ and talks about a blessed future filled with “peace, justice and righteousness” (Isaiah 9:7). Therefore, by inviting Jesus into your life tonight, you can find hope for more than a season.He will also remove the ‘shadow of spiritual death’ hanging over you.
“No gift is more needed by a dying world than a life-giving Savior”.
Earlier, I spoke about the darkness that enveloped the land at the point at which Jesus was born, to bring a great Light to us all. However, darkness came across the land once again for a few hours, some years later, as Jesus, the Son of God (The Light of the World), hung in that darkness on a cruel cross. He went to the cross to pay the price for our sins. However, in that darkness, the only light that was still shining was the cross of Jesus and it still burns brightly today! Are you willing to trust this Jesus during the Christmas season? Someone said,
“What you need this Christmas is not just a Christmas present, but His presence”.
Let me close with two stories from our church family.
ILLUSTRATION – a) A few years ago, a lady from our church, Abby Schaffter, received an invitation to one of our Christmas programs. Since the invitation was given by a friend who runs a pre-school, Abby mistakenly thought that it was an invitation for a school concert. She probably would not have attended if she had known that it was a Christmas Carol Service. However, that night God touched her life powerfully and she was born again into God’s Kingdom. She subsequently received healing and is fully involved in God’s service today!!
b) One of the young ladies who sang a solo tonight, Samithri Kanchana, received an invitation from her sister for our Carol Service four years ago. Although she came from a non-christian background, and was grappling with some bad decisions she had made, God touched her life that night, gave her a new life and a second chance and today, she is very much a part of the church worship team.
Both Abby and Samithri were transformed by the love of God from being under the ‘shadow of death’, to a place where they could receive eternal life through Jesus. They also received hope for more than a season. What about you?
In closing, let me quote one of the lines of the song ‘Desperado’ that was sung earlier by Shamil. It says “you better let somebody love you before it is too late”. What better love can you find this Christmas than the love of the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.!!
Are you willing to say ‘yes’ to Jesus?
God bless you and may I wish you a blessed, Christ-filled Christmas!!