Beckett: Midweek Advent Homily – The Hope the Scriptures Give Us

Date: December 7, 2022
Festival: Advent Midweek 2
Text: Romans 15:4-13
Preaching Occasion: Zion Lutheran Church, Mt. Pleasant, MI
Appointed Scriptures: Psalm 119:49-56; Romans 15:4-13
Sermon Hymn: LSB #763 When Peace, like a River

Exegetical Statement: Paul writes to the Gentile Romans that the Scriptures were written for their instruction, endurance, encouragement, and hope for the purpose that they might live in harmony with one another (vv. 4-7). He does this by centering these on Christ Jesus, who came as a servant to Israel to confirm the promises given to their patriarchs, and furthermore for the purpose that they, the Gentiles, might glorify God for His mercy. To drive this point home, Paul quotes from various Scriptures that point the Gentiles to God revealed in Christ as their hope (vv. 8-13). The text thus encourages the hearer to look to the Scriptures for their own instruction, endurance, and encouragement in this same hope in Jesus Christ, especially during the Advent season. For as we look to the Scriptures, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-2) who waited for the promises of God, we also have the same hope as we await God’s promise in Christ who will come in glory for our salvation.

Focus Statement: God has given you the Scriptures to equip you with endurance and encouragement as you await the Advent of Christ.

Function Statement: That my hearers might regularly read the Scriptures to receive endurance and encouragement as they wait for Christ’s Advent.

*Many thanks to Rev. Dr. Thomas Egger’s chapel sermon on December 5, 2016, for helping formulate this homily.*

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Advent is about a time of waiting—waiting for Christmas, waiting for our hope that is in Christ the King, born of a virgin; and waiting for Christ’s Second Advent to descend from the clouds in glory as He ushers in the new creation in the kingdom of New Jerusalem. The new Church Year always begins with Advent because it reminds us of our hope throughout the year—that we wait for Jesus. Therefore, St. Paul reminds you tonight that the sacred Scriptures were written for your endurance and encouragement so that you might have hope. Now you know why I am so fond of always saying, “Read your Bible,” because this book {hold up Bible} is a book about people who waited for God.

So, you see, you are not alone in your waiting. As Hebrews says, “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the same, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” [12:1-2]. Thanks to my disability from the Army, I’m not so good at running anymore; my endurance is nil. But back in those Army days, my fastest 2-mile run was 13 minutes and 10 seconds. And how does such a runner maintain his endurance? He runs regularly, and he drinks water.

Thus, how do we Christians endure the race of faith? Our faith gains endurance by regularly reading the Word of God; we keep drinking it in. Likely anticipating his imminent death, Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” [2 Tim. 4:7]. Where did Paul acquire such great endurance to bravely await the promised Advent of Christ while the Roman authorities beheaded him? From the Scriptures.

Anyone who knows Paul through his inspired writings knows he knew the Scriptures extremely well. He pointed the Roman Gentiles—and he points us Gentiles—to the Scriptures because of what they are about. Again, this book is about people who waited for God, who clung to Him—who trusted He would deliver them from their enemies, fulfil His promises to them, make right all that was wrong, and take away their sin and disgrace.

This book is about the first generations of humanity who, in a world corrupt with evil and violence, passed down the tradition of God’s promise that a child of God—a seed from Eve—would be born to deliver them from sin, death, and the devil. We read about Noah who waited out the Great Flood that destroyed the wicked generation of his time, who remained safe in the ark to inherit a new earth. And so, we await the flood of God’s wrath that will destroy this wicked generation while we remain safe in the ark of Christ’s body, His Church, to inherit the new heavens and the new earth.

We read about Sarah getting older and older, waiting for God’s promise of a son, foreshadowing the son born of Mary as the greater Isaac who would be the unblemished Lamb sacrificed upon the altar for the atonement of all your sins. We read about the Hebrew slaves waiting 400 years for deliverance from slavery under Pharaoh’s edict to drown their sons in the Nile, which foreshadowed the birth of Jesus who would flee to Egypt as a little boy to escape Herod’s edict that slaughtered all male children 2 years and under—the same Jesus who would deliver us from slavery to sin by virtue of our Baptism [Rom. 6:15-18]. We read about exiled Israel waiting for God’s deliverance from Babylon for 70 years while Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are cast into a burning furnace for refusing to bow down to pagan idols, yet coming out without a single burn, foreshadowing our own escape from God’s burning wrath because Christ took it upon Himself in our place.

The Scriptures tell the story of Israel’s endurance and God’s unfailing faithfulness. It tells the story of God’s people waiting for the promises of God, and God coming through without fail. The Scriptures, therefore, are not only written about a people waiting for God; they are also written for a people waiting for God—for people like you. Therefore, it is not just a book about hope, but also a book for hope. And this hope is more than generic optimism or emotional resilience. Neither is it the same as the world’s hope that relies on a coin flip. Rather, your hope is specific. It is the hope that “confirms the promises given to the patriarchs” [v. 8] and causes the Gentiles—a people previously not part of the people of God—to give glory to the God of Israel for His mercy, who Himself becomes their hope as revealed in Jesus Christ. This hope is even for Gentiles like you and me.

Paul has many ways to describe this hope throughout the corpus of his writings. Christ is our hope amidst our suffering, for “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” [Rom. 5:2-5]. We hope for what we do not see, and we are convicted of its certainty, for who hopes in what one sees [Rom. 8:24-25; Heb. 11:1]? And what we do not yet see, Paul calls “the hope of righteousness” [Gal. 5:5]; Christ’s “glorious inheritance in the saints” [Eph. 1:18]; “the hope laid up for you in heaven” [Col. 1:5]; “boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming” [1 Thess. 2:19]; the resurrection of the dead [1 Thess. 4:13-18]; the helmet of our salvation [1 Thess. 5:8]; “eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” [Titus 1:2; cf. 3:7]; and “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:13]!

There is no other way to know about this hope and be nourished by it than to read and hear the Scriptures. The Word of God that the Holy Spirit has sealed for us therein is the true daily bread we need every day. They are the nourishment we need every morning, afternoon, and evening to continue running this long race of faith. So, as you daily feed upon the Scriptures, keep waiting. Keep hoping. God’s people wait, and God’s people hope. They have never been disappointed, and they never will be.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” [v. 13]. Amen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close