Advent is the season of Hope. Hope is a kin to trust. Merriam Webster dictionary defines Hope as to cherish a desire with anticipation, to desire with expectation of obtainment, to expect with confidence: Trust. This Advent season we have heard about the imagination of advent, a people of hope in the greenlandians, and eschatological hope. Today I want to continue our look at hope in this season of hope, with just a little twist. You see advent is not only the season of Hope; it is the season of Promise and Hope. We can have hope because of the promises that have been made, and we can trust in the promises made through our hope.
We have hope in the promise, we can trust in the promise. But what is the promise? The promise of what? In our readings for today we heard two promises. But I would like to offer you 7 promises made by God for your consideration. First is the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. God Promised to make Abraham a great nation, the father of countless generations. Second is the promise to David, that his offspring will be the Son of God, and his kingdom will last forever in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. David’s descendant will sit on the throne of all eternity. Third is the promise made to Ahaz, found in our first reading for today, the sign of the young woman with child whose son shall be called Immanuel. Fourth is the promise to Mary found in Luke 1:32 that her son will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. The Fifth promise is to Joseph, son of David, found in our gospel passage for today. The son your fiancé is about to have is the son of God, he is from the Holy Spirit, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. The Sixth promise is to an old man named Simeon found in Luke 2:25-35, and the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ. All promises made by God, all promises that could be said to have their fulfillment in the coming expected day of Christmas, the birth of our savior.
But let us look closer at the two promises from our texts for today. We can see we have two men, we have two promises, and as Pastor Scott said last week, we have one with imagination and one without. Ahaz was king over Jerusalem. His city was under siege and he did not know what to do. Isaiah, God’s Prophet, told Ahaz to ask a sign of God, and Ahaz being the pious Jew would not test God. He knew this was something you just did not do. But this was a sign he had no imagination. He had really no hope in God providing this sign for him, and could not image what would happen from doing this. So God gave him a sign anyway. God said the young woman (probably best translated for us today as teenager) was with child and was going to have a son and he would be called God with us. This child was born, and Ahaz was freed from the trouble he was in, but then wound up in even bigger trouble. He was a man of great faith, very pious in nature, but he had no hope, no trust in God fulfilling his request for a sign, and God gave a sign, a son Immanuel, God is with us!
Then there is Joseph, son of David, a man who also was very pious, and of great faith. He was faced with the dilemma of having to break of the marriage with Mary. You see he and Mary were in a prearranged agreement. They were betrothed to one another; they were in a contract of engagement. This is a very big deal in this time. Money or goods were exchanged by the families, and power was acquired or strengthened by the marital unions between families. And while Mary was not with Joseph she came to be with child. Now Joseph had to break off the marriage, because it was not within his rights to forgive Mary of this sin, he was pious and faithful to God. So according to Deuteronomy 22.23-24 Joseph was to find the man who was with Mary and bring them both before the courts and they would be stoned to death for their sin, so as to purge the evil from their midst. Well Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace or to have her put to death; he was going to break off the arrangement quietly. But this all changed when he had a dream. An angel came to him and gave him a promise. That the child Mary was carrying was the child of God, and that Joseph should take him and name him Jesus. And so Joseph imaged what it would be like to be in the life he had envisioned before Mary got to be with child and he believed the promise that Jesus will save his people from their sin. He awoke and did as the angel told him. He married Mary, and when the baby was born Joseph adopted the boy by giving him the name of Jesus. Usually the mother would give the child a name, but the father could claim the child as his own by taking the right to give a name, and so Joseph adopted Jesus into the blood line of David and Abraham, thus fulfilling the promises to David for one of David’s offspring to be the Son of God, and the promise to Abraham to be the father of many nations. Joseph had the hope to believe in the promise that this child would be, as the name Jesus mean’s in Hebrew/Aramaic, God’s Help or God’s Salvation.
We can hold what Karl Rahner said that God is our absolute hope. Because as Pastor Scott said, “Because we believe that God is real, that God loves life, that God treasures relationships, that God is the final goal of all creation because we believe these things, God is the source of hope that is a magnet for us Christians.” The promise is something we can believe in because of this absolute hope. Our absolute trust in God, our faith in his promise, through the hope that only he can give us. Today we get a fore taste of the feast to come through the Eucharistic meal we will share, with all who have gone before us, and all of those yet to come. This was promised to us, and in hope we can trust in God to be Immanuel, to be with us.
Earlier I said there were 7 promises give by God, and I told you about 6, well the Seventh is the promise God made to us. We see this in our readings from today. Jesus will save his people from their sin, and he will be called Immanuel. He came to fulfill God’s will, to return us to a right relationship with God the Father. He came to faithfully go, where no one else could go, to the cross, and redeem us to that right relationship. Through his faithfulness to keep the promises, we can trust in him and know we always have hope to see things differently, to image life with God. He also said he would be with us, “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” in Matthew 28:20. He is with us, and that is how we can hope in tomorrow, and believe in the promises of God.
As we await the coming of Christmas and the coming of the Christ child, remember we live in the hope and promise of his coming. We live in the realization of his faithfulness, the faithfulness to die a death, even a death on the cross, so we may have hope, so that we may believe in the promise. Martin Luther said “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” As we await the coming of Jesus let us remember our absolute hope is in God, and through this trust we can believe in the promise, the promise that Jesus is Immanuel and he is with us. Amen