Originally scheduled for December 27
Despite all the restrictions on social gatherings which are now in
force, I am planning to attend somebody’s New Year’s Eve party. It’s
not so much that I want to welcome in 2021; it’s that I want to make
sure 2020 leaves.
It’s a common characteristic of human beings: hope. We imagine the
future coming in and somehow we decide it is going to be better than
what we have now. Often enough, we are right. The plain fact is that
humanity cannot live without hope. We live in a sinful world, and
our natural reaction is that it’s got to get better. This isn’t
always true, but it almost always is what we want.
Did you know that hope is a theological virtue? You will recall the
13th chapter of First Corinthians ending with the three
things that abide: faith, hope and love. CS Lewis put it this way.
"Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a
continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some
people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking but one of the
things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we
are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history
you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present
world were just those who thought most of the next. The
Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman
Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English
Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on
Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.
It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other
world that they have become so ineffective in this."
So it is that the Christian is to keep his mind on the world to
come. How do we strengthen hope?
We strengthen it in prayer. When you go to pray, you bring in a
number of assumptions. Be sure that they include the things that the
Lord has promised with regard to eternity.
We strengthen it in fellowship. It’s hard to be full of hope when
you’re the guy who’s stranded on a desert island. But God has given
us the church to strengthen us in these matters.
Believe it or not, one of the best methods of brightening your
outlook on the hope of the church is in song. Many of the old hymns
remind us of our great hope.
If you will keep your mind on what God has promised, strengthening
your hope in the future is much easier. And what is it that God has
He has promised us the return of Christ — that we shall see our Lord
and Savior in the flesh, face-to-face. The faith will become sight.
He has promised us the resurrection of the dead; victory over the
He has promised us the Great Judgment, when the wrongs of this world
will be righted and those who have worked hard for the kingdom
He has promised us the reign of Christ — forever. Remember the words
from the Hallelujah Chorus: “King of Kings, forever and ever.”
Communion looks forward to these things. As you partake this
morning, you proclaim the hope of Christians everywhere. You should
also remember the price paid. As one old hymn put it,
“my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and
Our hope was secured by the body and blood of Christ on the Cross.
It was his payment; it is our promise.