1. Are you waiting on something? If so, what about the waiting has been challenging for you?
2. How has waiting changed you? What lessons have you learned in your season of waiting? Has God revealed anything about Himself during this time?
3. Have you ever found yourself trying to force His timing or trying to make something happen in your timeline? What happened?
Good morning Hope City, and Merry Christmas! If you’re new here my name is Peter and I am the Pastor here, we’re so glad that you’ve chose to be with us today, and I hope that you’ll consider being here all December as we kick off a new series called a Thrill of Hope. And especially be here for Christmas Eve at Hope City. I’ve got to tell you that we are SO excited for Christmas Eve… you’re going to want to be on time for that service… It’s going to be GREAT! It’s a 60-minute Family Experience that will end with a candle lit experience. It is one of my favorite services of all year! Invite your friends and family to join you for that.
I just invited some friends of mine to join us this week and they are already making plans to celebrate Christmas Eve with us! It’s not too early to start asking.
Can you believe that we are already in the Christmas season? This past week my family and I were able to go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party thanks to a very generous gift from our church for Pastors Appreciation Month. What a great time that was to be together as a family. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to make such incredible memories with my kids and my wife Tiffany.
I have so many great memories of Christmas, of my own and of course with my family. Do you remember as a kid how long you would wait for Christmas to come? It seemed like you would wait forever! Well, in my house growing up, Christmas morning would come, and I’d be wide awake… EARLY… And we’d have to wait in bed till 6 am. The moment the clock turned to 6 I’d race out of my bed and run into my parent’s room and wake them up… They would tell me to go wake up my sisters… and if all of this wasn’t enough, there was even more waiting. We had a family tradition of all four of us kids sitting on the steps to get the yearly Christmas morning sitting on the steps picture. UGH! I could barely contain myself, MORE WAITING!
Well, guess what we do in my house every Christmas morning. My kids get up and I make them sit on the steps and we take a picture. Joke’s on them now! 😉 So much waiting.
We don’t just wait for Christmas though do we?… We say things like, “I thought that I would have more financial security by now.” I had 3 different conversations this week with men of different ages who were all saying the same thing… I have been waiting for this age, and I’ve been waiting for it not to be this tight…
Or maybe you’re waiting for the magical marriage proposal. You’ve been keeping your nails manicured and now you have started to wonder if it’s worth it. You’re stuck waiting.
Or how about all of you parents who are waiting. You’re waiting for your kid to learn how to use the potty… what a day that will be. Or maybe you’ve been praying for your teenager who is going through a hard season, and you want to see it change for them. Or we all know parents who have kids off at college and their relationship has grown distant and, in many ways, even a bit cold. And they are waiting to experience what they once had.
And I think we are all left with a looming question… it’s not “How long will we have to wait?” Sometimes, we will never know how long. It’s not “Will what we are waiting for ever come true?” Often times that’s out of our control. But what is in our control is a question that we need to ask ourselves this morning, “How do we wait TODAY for TOMORROW’S experience?” How do we emotionally prepare ourselves for the process of waiting?
What’s interesting is that Christmas, or the season of Advent, is a season that is celebrating the arrival of Christ. And just like us there was a group of people who were waiting for Christmas, only they didn’t know it would be called Christmas, nor did they know when it would be. Christmas reminds us and informs us on how we can wait today for tomorrow’s experience.
Let’s take a look back to the story of Christmas… Just listen in and follow along on the screen with me today.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. [i]
This is what you and I think of when we think about the Christmas story. But the Christmas story doesn’t start in verse 18 of Matthew chapter 1. That’s just our favorite part of the story… The Christmas story is rooted in verses 1-17…
Do you remember that part? My guess, is probably not because it’s a list of names. If you were to open a Bible and look at it, you might see that it says “The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah”. BORING right? I mean, it’s all good when it’s names you recognize or remember… but what about the names on that list that you couldn’t even pronounce like “Amminadab the father of Nahshon”, or “Azor the father of Zadok.” This is the part of your bible that you skim through and barely read. But don’t miss it… don’t miss out on what is happening. Look with me at verse 17…
17 there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.
There were 42 generations of people who were waiting for this moment that you and I celebrate as Christmas. The moment, the arrival of the Messiah. Ever generation was asking if this was going to be the time when the Messiah would come… the savior of the world. They were WAITING. Waiting for the one who would make it right again. Their was such brokenness in the world, just like there is today.
You can’t turn on the television or click open your phone without reading or hearing about another tragedy that is facing our world today. There are so many people who are left waiting and wondering when will things get better.
This may even describe some of you in this room!
See for years, the people had heard from God, through His prophets, people who spoke for the Lord, that someone was coming who would make things right again. Isaiah 7:14 says,
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Generation after generation was waiting for this promise to happen! There were many prophets who spoke on behalf of God, until one final prophet, by the name of Malachi came on the scene. And after Malachi, there were no more. God went silent. For 400 years! This one page in my Bible represents 400 years… of SILENCE.
We crack open our Bibles and we read Matthew Chapter 1&2 and we see the baby Jesus being born in a manger… we see how Mary was so brave and courageous… we see how Joseph displayed an incredible trust in God…. We see how Jesus was going to change the world. But between the first page of Matthew and the Last Page of Malachi there was 400 years of silence. No prophets, no angels, no voice, nothing. Imagine the pain of that waiting.
Think about how painful that must have been for one generation to look back at the generation before them and saying, Was God gone? Was He ever really there? Has He forgotten about me? GOD YOU PROMISED!
This is where some of you may be today. You may be waiting for God, you may be waiting for a promise to come through. Christmas reminds us that we Celebrate Why Christ Came, not just that He came. Jesus came to bring Hope and Healing! We don’t only celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the fact that God was fulfilling His promise to provide a messiah, a savior for everyone. And this brings a thrill of Hope to those who are weary and worn out.
400 years of silence and then it happened…
In the middle of a field, a crew of shepherds experienced the greatest message from heaven… the angels of the Lord proclaimed, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men on whom His favor rests.
God cared. God was there still. God was going to be near. After 400 years of distance, God took on flesh and was moving into the neighborhood.
Christmas is a story of longing…. We can find ourselves in the struggle of waiting and silence, and yet Christmas reminds us that God is near. That God will come through on His promises. We celebrate WHY GOD CAME! HE CAME FOR YOU TO HAVE HOPE! And this Hope is only found in Jesus.
In our waiting, it is easy to lose hope because we can no longer see what we are hoping for! Waiting is hard, because it feels like a waste of time. But Christmas reminds us that Waiting is not Wasted. It’s easy to stay in debt because you can’t see your way out of debt… the end of that tunnel is so far away. Sallie Mae seems to never go away. Or it’s easy to lose hope in your relationships because you can’t see any significant changes. And it becomes easier to see divorce in the distance than restoration.
James 1:2-4 says,
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
When you are waiting on God and trusting His promises, you are not wasting time. I wonder what we would be like if we never had to wait for anything. What would our character be like? What would our lives look like? It’s not easy to keep this in mind when we’re waiting. This is what makes the instruction from James such a challenge! Joy? No way… I don’t want that. OUR world says we should have it our way, right now. And it is supposed to be their pleasure to provide it for us that quickly. Waiting feels like wasting, but as John Ortberg says, WHO YOU BECOME WHILE YOU’RE WAITING, IS AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT YOU ARE WAITING FOR.
A friend of mine has prayed for their parents for YEARS! YEARS have gone by and they have kept praying for the Lord to do something in their hearts. And after years and years of waiting… it has happened… Do you think that was easy? No… but it was worth it. Waiting is not wasted.
There was a group of people who witnessed Jesus up close and personally, and they were pretty sure that He was the one that they were waiting for, but they were still wondering–Is there any hope… It was John the Baptist and the people that followed John.
2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
This was another fulfillment of a promise God made… A prophecy that said, one is going to come to heal the hurting, restore the brokenhearted, and bring Hope to the Hopeless. And here He was in the person of Jesus. John was wondering, is there any hope? Hope Changes Everything!
Jesus are you the one John is saying? I don’t need you to bust me out of jail. I don’t need you to change my circumstance today, but I need to know is there any hope?
The times that I’ve been tempted to give up have been when I can’t see the end in sight. This past September I participated in an endurance event called a GoRuck Tough event. And the whole event started off with about an hour of sheer pain. This was the kick off of the next 12 hours. We were running from one end of a field to the next doing different exercises with roughly 40 pounds on our back. I’ll never forget the moment we were bear crawling through the wet grass thinking to myself, I Don’t think I can do this… There is no way… I couldn’t see the end. I couldn’t picture surviving it. It was overwhelming.
We may not be bear crawling through wet grass right now, but I do know that many of us are carrying around burdens and worries and fears that weigh far more than 40 pounds.
And it’s not just you, it’s the world around us. Everyone is carrying some secret weight. But Christmas is meant to remind us that Hope Changes everything. Christmas is meant to give us a THRILL of HOPE. But not just us… This Hope is for All!
Jesus is the Hope of the World, and the local church is the method of expressing that Hope to the World. Which is why this Christmas we are excited to share with you all how we are taking steps here at Hope City to bring Hope For All. Right now I’m going to ask our Ushers to come and make sure that everyone of you gets all the info… We’ve put together a piece for you to see exactly what it is we are going to be doing at the end of 2018…. The Church is not a place where people meet, no, the Church is made of people from that place. We gather together in order to share this Hope that we have in Christ with the world around us.
We have three big buckets that we are going to be pouring our energy and efforts into in the new year. This year we are going to be receiving a special year end offering that we are calling the Hope For All Offering. This is specifically going to be used to do exactly that, provide Hope For all… in three primary ways.
Through our Hope For All Offering we are going to be expanding Hope City Kids and Hope City Youth to serve more than just kids and youth… in fact we are going to be serving the whole family through Hope City Family. This may sound like we are just changing language, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are looking to change the way that we serve our families here in Sarasota. We know that parents spend a lot of their time worrying about their kids, how they are doing, and wondering just how much counseling they will need after they leave our houses… right? Well, we want to change that. We want to equip entire families to take their next steps in their journey of faith. In fact, as a first step in this process, all month long in Hope City Family, pre-k through middle school our students are going to be learning what it means to serve others and starting today, for this month, you will see your kids come home with tools that you can use as a family to serve the world around you. Today, our students are learning about compassion for those who are often forgotten. They are making crafts to be delivered to nursing homes and used as conversation starters to remind our aging friends that they aren’t forgotten by God, or US!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Through our Hope For All Offering, we want to see Hope City Family thrive and Families grow in ways that they have not been able to at Hope City yet.
Our second big bucket item is that we want to see our church care for people better in 2019, and the way that we are going to do that is by training and releasing more leaders! I may have started and founded this church, and I have the privilege of leading it, but it is not about me. Every person here has a gift and an ability that God can use to bring hope to our city… I’ve said that if you have a pulse you have a purpose. We want to grow the size and the depth of our leadership here at Hope City. We want to pour into our Dream Team and strengthen the health of that team as they serve our church and our community as well as fund the startup costs of an associate pastor who will help us focus on caring for our community here.
The third big bucket item to bring Hope For All is to look beyond our walls. We know that it is important to care for the people that are here at Hope City already, but Hope City never existed for just those who were already here. We have done whatever we can to engage people who don’t have a spiritual home to go to. And what we know is that we are just a small part of what God is doing in the larger community of the global church. This year a portion of our Hope for All offering will fund other church plants across America through our partnership with the Association of Related Churches. In 2019, we will be also doubling our annual Easter Egg Drop with twice as many eggs and helicopters in an effort to invite more of our neighbors. As well, we will be providing 200 Care Packages for foster families across Sarasota letting them know that they are not forgotten or overlooked!
Let me explain something… Guys, listen to me, this is not something that we are doing to build our church name… No… We are doing this because this reflects the heart of our Father in heaven. When you look at Christmas, what did you see Jesus doing? He broke through the silence of 400 years with the greatest message of Hope He knew how to send–His son Jesus. People think that God is angry and distant, that He has forgotten them, or that He is irrelevant to our current culture.
This special offering goes above and beyond our normal tithes to help fuel our ministry for 2019 and bring HOPE to Sarasota and beyond in a way that reflects the Father’s intention of bringing Hope. This is how we change a city, this is how we change a neighborhood, this is how we change a family. This is how we can change a single life… By pointing them to the Hope that they have in JESUS.
Understand something… This isn’t just about caring. This is about your calling. So I want to challenge you, what Part would God have you play in this? Ask God, How do you want me to use the power and influence that I have in a way that would bring Hope to those you love dearly….
Maybe this year you will leverage a portion of your future nest egg to ensure that someone else has hope for their future. Did you know that you can give Stocks to Hope City? We don’t talk about it a lot, but this may be a great option for you. You can take something that is sitting and turn it into something that will be serving others this year. Or maybe this year you will intentionally increase your standard of giving before you increase your standard of living. I’m asking you to do one thing today… I’m not asking you to commit to anything. Nor am I asking you to give anything today. I’m asking you to take this brochure home, and to pray about it. To put it in a place that you’ll see it and pray and ask the Lord what part He wants you to play in this.
We have set a goal of raising $35,000 dollars to accomplish these initiatives. $35,000 above and beyond our normal tithes and offerings. We’ve included a special envelope in your brochure to be used as you give your offering.
Our regular expenses are not changing, we are looking to increase what we are capable of doing here in our city. This is why we are saying this is above and beyond, because We are looking to bring HOPE FOR ALL!
Hope is critical when we are weary of waiting… HOPE IS WHAT HOLDS US TOGETHER WHILE WAITING WORKS TO WEAR US OUT. And we know that Jesus is the only Hope that we have that won’t ever fade or fall apart. This is a firm foundation that we can build our lives upon.
And this is why we will do EVERYTHING WE CAN here at Hope City to bring HOPE FOR ALL.
If you’ve come to this Christmas season tired out and wondering when your wait will be over, would you begin by looking for God’s work in your waiting? What is it that God is doing in you while you wait? Who are you becoming in the waiting? Whatever it is you’re waiting for, don’t give up Hope. It’s miraculous that Jesus came to earth, but it’s even more incredible to think about why He came. To forgive us and free us from a life of sin… Let that Hope sink in today…
Can you imagine what it would be like if together we together we brought Hope for those in our community who have felt forgotten and overlooked?