Monthly Archives: November 2014

Jesus Christ, the Same – Advent 1: Hope

Blind Faith (No. 45, 2014)
Weekly Devotional for November 27, 2014
Jesus Christ, the Same – Advent 1: Hope

2014 FBC Advent Theme: Jesus Christ, the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever
First Sunday of Advent November 30, 2014: Hope

Sensibilities of the faithful become enlivened during this
crucial season. “Hope springs eternal” is more than a familiar saying for
those who fervently follow their passion. Talk of true religious zeal
pervades conversations. Hope is the key that unites longing hearts, but the
objects of hope incite adherents to fierce competition. This is the weekend
for traditional football rivals to play, with some going on to contend for
conference championships, bowl games, or the new national championship
playoffs! Genuine contenders for championships and their fans are full of
hope! (And, by the way, hope is the theme of the first Sunday of Advent as
followers of Jesus prepare to celebrate the Lord’s birth at Christmas. But
that’s beside the point for hordes of football fans!)

Every season begins with lofty hopes for diehard fans of
perennial powerhouse football teams. Pre-season rankings tend to look back
to the previous season’s record to garner pollsters’ votes for this season’s
top ranked teams. But past demonstrations of power and glory may not sustain
hope for current championship aspirations. Championships are settled on the
field. The team you had last year is not the team you have now. Many hopeful
dynasties have been derailed by losses to supposed lesser teams. When past
glories falter, hope fades.

Current hopes can change in an instant. A jarring tackle or an
awkward landing can tear up a knee, break a bone, or cause a concussion.
Suddenly star players are no longer on the field. Players can miss their
assignments and create explosive plays by opposing teams. On any given
Saturday, any team can beat any other team (especially in the SEC West!).
What promised to be a certain victory turns ugly and the aspiring champions
go down to defeat. Hope can be crushed by unanticipated calamities.

Many hopes for this season have already been dashed. Regrouping
for a respectable finish may serve to fuel hopes for future seasons. But as
the Securities and Exchange Commission (the other SEC) requires stock market
reports and projections to say, “past performance does not necessarily
predict future results.” Recruiting battles may or may not deliver the mix
of players whose abilities mesh into a winning tradition. Off-field injuries
or academic problems can render crucial players unavailable for competition.
Players key to past victories and counted on for the next season may
capitalize on their success and leave the team for lucrative pro contracts.
Uncertainties about how the future will play out can smother hope under
unfolding contrary realities.

Hope can be fleeting for even the most ardent fans of the most
storied football programs. The commitment of time, energy, and money may
meet or exceed religious zeal, but the fulfillment of hope is far from
certain.

Advent offers hope that is genuinely eternal and that assures
the faithful of complete fulfillment. The reason is grounded securely in the
affirmation of scripture chosen by First Baptist Church, Huntsville as this
year’s Advent theme: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
(Hebrews 13:8) Whether our attention is focused upon Jesus’ past
demonstrations of God’s power and grace, his present presence and work
through us, or his future glorification and embrace in God’s eternity, our
hope is unfailingly secure through faith in him.

Our hope grows from faithful knowledge that God created
everything around us and has demonstrated his grace continually. Indeed, the
God who loved us in the past is the God who loves us even now. The psalmist
affirmed God’s faithfulness from before any beginnings: “Lord, you have been
our home since the beginning. {2} Before the mountains were born and before
you created the earth and the world, you are God. You have always been, and
you will always be.” (Psalms 90:1-2 NCV) Because of God’s enduring grace in
the past, we can have continuing hope. John testifies that Jesus has always
been part of God’s gracious actions. In John’s cosmic Christmas story he
tells of Jesus’ – the Word’s – origin: “In the beginning there was the Word.
The Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} He was with God in the
beginning. {3} All things were made by him, and nothing was made without
him.” (John 1:1-3 NCV) We can have hope because Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday..

Our hope sustains us in every present moment because, as Paul
explained to a crowd in Athens, we are always in touch with Jesus: “We live
in him. We walk in him. We are in him.” (Acts 17:28a NCV) On any given day,
Jesus is with us to shower us with God’s grace needed for that day. The
assurance was part of Jesus’ birth announcement. One of his names is
“Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” (Matthew 1:28b) And Jesus,
himself, gave his word that he would always be “in the game” with us as we
trust in him: “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 19:20b NRSV) We can have hope because Jesus Christ is the same .
today..

Our hope extends into God’s own future because Jesus is the
consummate expression of God’s grace. Jesus’ past performance of care for us
is a faithful guarantee of the outcome God has for us through faith in
Jesus. Our place forever is to be in God’s eternal presence with Jesus. His
promise at the end of his earthly life was clear: “Jesus said, ‘Don’t let
your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. {2} There are many
rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I
am going there to prepare a place for you. {3} After I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may
be where I am.'” (John 14:1-3 NCV) John’s vision of Jesus in the book of
Revelation underscores Jesus’ promise of the final outcome. Jesus says, “I
am the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God.
“I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come, the Almighty
One.” (Revelation 1:8 NLT) We can have hope because Jesus Christ is the same
. forever.

Followers of Jesus can have hope that does not fade nor get
crushed nor smothered. Our hope endures through the God who became flesh In
Jesus and who reigns in eternity. Peter advises Christians to “always be
prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for
the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15b NIV) OK, here it is: Jesus Christ,
the same yesterday, today, and forever. Give someone that answer as you
express your hope in Jesus this Advent season.

– J. Edward Culpepper