I think the first thing I want to talk about is the word Ďhopeí. I believe that if you read the passages in the New Testament where the people talk about their hope in the Lord and the things they hope for, you will find that they mean something other than what we mean when we say hope.
I think that the proper synonym for hope in our day is wish. When we hope something will happen, we wish it would, but we donít have any reason to think that it will happen more than that it wonít happen. We just wish it would.
In the New Testament, the word hope is used more as a substitute for a future promise. The people are looking forward to something they do not have yet, but they know it is coming. They just donít know when it will get here.
Thatís the way I mean hope in this message.
Three years ago, I was quickly, and forcefully introduced to a common enemy. I never had ever felt real enmity for anyone before then. I believe my feelings would easily have been covered by the term hatred and total helplessness.
You see, three years ago in December, Death entered into my house and claimed my two year old son, Ernest.
It is amazing to me, how much one can read and comprehend philosophies, and yet be so far from really understanding what it really means. I had read so often that Death was my enemy. I was aware of the fact that there were things in this world that I would have absolutely no control over. But in no way was I prepared for the total devastation I felt when my son was taken.
Ernest was not ill before his death. He was a very normal, active 2 year old that morning. He had a tumor we werenít aware of rupture in the late afternoon, and died around mid-night that night. We didnít even know what was wrong with him for about 3 weeks after his death, then the autopsy report came back.
Ernest was the 7th of our 8 children at the time. (Weíve been blessed with another son since then.) We were getting ready to go look at Christmas lights when Ernest died. In a way it seemed hard that he should die just at that time.
We took the other children to look at lights about a week later. I had always heard about how hard Christmas was right after a loved oneís death. But you know what. I donít think God could have taken Ernest at a better time. As we drove around looking at the lights, I couldnít help but realize that here, at this one time of the year, there were more people proclaiming the one and the only Person who could do anything about that enemy I had found.
I know that many people who do not believe in Christ put out lights. But that doesnít change the fact that He lives and we celebrate His birth in December. ( It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Philippians 1:15-18)
As we drove around, and as we continued to celebrate Christmas at our home that year, a new peace and joy came to me that I had never had about Christmas before. I realized, as never before, just what this world would be like without Christ. I felt for a moment how horrible it would be to have to face the deaths of all those around you if there were no hope for ever being with them or seeing them again. I was and am so thankful that I have a hope.
I have a hope that I will see Ernest again when I go to be with my Lord Christ
I have a hope that my Lord will indeed subdue and destroy Death.
I have a hope that everything God has told me in His Word is true and
I wanted to write this for those of you who have also known the loss of a loved
one. I want to encourage you to look forward to the day when you can look on
the face of a loved one in heaven. And I want to especially urge you to take
joy in this festive season. For at this time of year, as in no other, the
reason for our hope and joy is being proclaimed to all men. Every time you
start to look back and become sad or weary, look ahead instead. God has given
us promises and hope that is more than just a wish. It is a reality.
Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even
the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy
that shall be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:24-26