An Invitation to Hope

December 3, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

1st Sunday of Advent

Sermon Series: “The Invitation”

The Lord Be Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Isaiah 57:7-12, 17-19 (The Voice)

Isaiah 9:1-3 (The Voice)

Romans 5:1-5 (The Voice)

 

“An Invitation to Hope…”

 

The Lord Be with you

and also with you

Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s Leading…

 

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah from chapter 57, verses 7-12 and 17-19. Listen and take heed the words spoken by the prophet, through the Spirit of God, to the children of Israel and to the children of God throughout the centuries…

 

“I can see no one has ever helped you understand what this whole invitation to Jesus is all about. Let’s get some more coffee. I will try to explain it to you,” Esther said over her shoulder as she went to the coffee station. “Cream and sugar Hun?”, she asked. “Yes please,” Hope answered… “Ok…let’s get started…”

 

Good morning and welcome to “The Invitation…”  The invitation you might ask? What invitation? Well the invitation of Advent of course. Today is the we celebrate the invitation of the manger. We begin our “Advent”ure to the feeding tough the Bread of Life, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ was laid in. It is the moment that God sent the invitation to all of humanity to come and see the babe in the manger and return forever changed. Without this invitation, you and I would not be here today. Without this invitation there is no Hope, no Peace, no Joy, and no Love…there is no invitation to Christ.

 

Why is this invitation important to you…or is it even of any significance to you? Give time to answer. What do you think this invitation consist of…do you what know what actually laid in that manger when love came down? Give time to answer. Do you think that we “Christians”, in general, are more like Hope in the story than her friend Esther? Giver time to answer. This season, I ask that you join me on an “Advent”ure. Let’s really look at what we are invited to. My prayer is as we do this…we are going to be changed. My prayer is as we journey together and discover or rediscover the excitement of “The Invitation.”

 

But to do this, I am going to ask you to do something truly radical. This is going to be hard, but I believe it is necessary for our journey. Most of humanity has things we carry…baggage as some call it. Most of us have stresses that we hold on to. I am asking that we empty our baggage right here, right now, pick up our empty suitcases and begin the journey. Now I am asking we leave with an empty suitcase for this reason, to fill it with the invitation. Now some of us go on vacation with and empty bag or almost empty. Why? So that we can fill it with things we gather on the journey. I am inviting us to gather all that we can to be able to bring it on our new journey of the New Year in the end. Let’s do this now…in this place…leaving on the altar…(Visualization)

 

So…let’s begin…the first invitation of the “The Invitation” is “an invitation to Hope.” OK…don’t be rolling your eyes at me…we have been talking about Hope for a while now and you are probably thinking…here we go again with hope…we get it already. Well I am talking about a different Hope…the Hope of the invitation…

 

Now in the Isaiah from the Isaiah we just read, we hear about a hopeless situation. They had made their bed and now they had to lay in it…so to speak. They had turned away from God, again, and now they were reaping the rewards. They were doing the whole “lip service” to God but behind the scenes they were completely the opposite. Where is the hope of restoration? They walked away from God and turned to the god’s, the deities, of the culture around them… Even today we do the same thing. We, the children of Go, still tend to lead a double life.”  Where do we find hope?

 

Even as we enter the story of hope, peace, joy, and love, we find it hard to believe. But there is hope found in the manger. Even when there was no light at the end of the tunnel God was work on a “restoration project” for all who believed then and now. Listen for the hope in Isaiah 9:1-3…

When God’s people haven’t seen a hint of light or hope of day, God will do something new.

But there will be no more gloom for those who knew such hardship. In times past, God humbled the land of Zebulun and Naphtali; later, He will restore the honor and glory to the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee, home of the nations.

The people who had been living in darkness
have seen a great light.
The light of life has shined on those who dwelt
in the shadowy darkness of death.
And You, God, will make it happen. You bolstered the nation,
making it great again. You have saturated it with joy.
Everyone in it is full of delight in Your presence,
like the joy they experience at the harvest,
like the thrill of dividing up the spoils of war.

The people would suffer for what they had done…we had suffered for what we ad done in the past…but God was working on a “restoration project” on the other side… An Invitation to Hope…real hope…

 

Hear the Good News in Romans 5:1-5:

In God’s plan to restore a fallen and disfigured world, Abraham became the father of all of us, the agent of blessing to everyone. Jesus completes what God started centuries before when He established Abraham’s covenant family. Those who put faith in Jesus and call Him “Lord” become part of Abraham’s faith family. Because God is gracious, loving, and merciful, men and women from every corner of the earth are not only declared right, but ultimately are made right as well. It happens through God’s actions—not our efforts—in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who was crucified for our misdeeds and raised to repair what has been wrong all along. So the promises of God made long years ago are being realized in men and women who hear the call of faith and answer “yes” to it.

Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King. Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory. And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.

 

Within “The Invitation” was and is “An Invitation to Hope…”. Within “The Invitation” of Advent, God worked out His plan of the restoration of humanity to Himself. Within “The Invitation” is “an invitation” to all the promises of long ago were offered to all of humanity. Within “The Invitation” we are set free to hope once more.

 

Have you accepted “The Invitation” to “An Invitation of Hope”? If you have accepted it, are you living it out in your daily life or is it just for show and you have your own deities you hope in? The plea of the Psalmist is clear and it was answered in the form of a babe in a manger…

Restore us, God Almighty;

    make your face shine on us,

    that we may be saved.

Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,

    the son of man you have raised up for yourself.

 

Then we will not turn away from you;

    revive us, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, Lord God Almighty;

    make your face shine on us,

    that we may be saved.

Amen!

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