Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Hope in the Trouble

With our Children's Program & Play happening on this 4th Sunday of Advent, the message this week will be given on Christmas Eve.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.

Luke 1:26-38

New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Trouble makes for a dark world. 

All through Advent we have had this header in our bulletins.
A black box with a single candle lit. Our lives can be like this at times.
Things can be bleak and dark with little or no light to show us the way. 

This Advent season has been about finding your light.
Jesus is the light. We want Jesus in our hearts and lives so we don't get lost in a dark world.
Trouble is...lights can be snuffed out. Light bulbs burn out. Electricity can go out. Fuses can bust. The many things we look to for help and guidance can end up being so unreliable. The very things we look to for power and support can break down and leave us in a state of shock. 

So, where can we look for hope? I plead the case that it's right in front of our noses. 
 We've talked a lot about it this Advent season. It might be good is we took a long look at the word. 
 Upon opening Merriam-Webster and talking that look we see the word used two different way.
As a noun and as a verb. The noun should be obvious. It's something we can hang on to. Something possessive. Something definite.

Full Definition of HOPE

1 archaic :  trust, reliance
2 a :  desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment <came in hopes of seeing you>; also :  expectation of fulfillment or success <no hope of a cure>
   b :  someone or something on which hopes are centered <our only hope for victory>
   c :  something hoped for 
I would venture a guess that most of us are familiar with the notion of hope.  There are certain things we want in life. Enough money to make it. Good health and a good report from the doctor. People to get along around the table this holiday. An avoidance of trouble. Most everything we list that we are hoping for could most likely go under that heading. If we could only avoid that problems coming our way. I think of the words to an old country song...

Trouble is
dark and cold and lonely
Trouble is
this big, half empty bed
Trouble is
there no one around to hold me
She's not here. Trouble is...

from the 1999 album "Tattoos & Scars" - Montgomery Gentry
Songwriters HOWELL/GAY
Published by Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Peermusic Publishing, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Here's the intersection of trouble and hope. 
The cross roads at times might lead you to believe that there is no turn lane. You feel as if you can't get off the troubled road, even if you wanted to. It makes me think of the intersection of High and Broad in downtown Columbus. There are only certain times of the day when you are actually allowed to turn. Most of the day you need to simply keep traveling straight. Even if you wanted to get off the crazy, troubled road you're on, there is no choice. If the sign says you can't turn right now, then you can't turn right now. What is it about trouble that keeps us locked in our lane while feeling there is no ability to escape? We should probably look at that word, too.

Full Definition of TROUBLE

transitive verb
1 a :  to agitate mentally or spiritually :  worry, disturb
   b (1) archaic :  mistreat, oppress (2) :  to produce physical disorder in :  afflict <troubled by a cold>
   c :  to put to exertion or inconvenience <I'm sorry to trouble you>
2:  to put into confused motion <the wind troubled the sea>
intransitive verb
1:  to become mentally agitated :  worry <refused to trouble over trifles>
2:  to make an effort :  be at pains <did not trouble to come>
It was interesting to see that both words - hope and trouble - both come in noun and verb forms.
They can be possessive. Something definite. Something to lay your hands upon. A thing. A person. But they are both used in an action form. Trouble is something that we do. And, it's something that we have.

Full Definition of TROUBLE

1:  the quality or state of being troubled especially mentally
2:  public unrest or disturbance <there's trouble brewing downtown>
3:  an instance of trouble <used to disguise her frustrations and despair by making light of her troublesCurrent Biography>
4:  a state or condition of distress, annoyance, or difficulty <in trouble with the law> <heading for trouble> <got into financial trouble>: as
   a :  a condition of physical distress or ill health :  ailment <back trouble> <heart trouble>
   b :  a condition of mechanical malfunction <engine trouble>
   c :  a condition of doing something badly or only with great difficulty <has trouble reading> <has trouble breathing>
   d :  pregnancy out of wedlock <got a girl in trouble>
5:  an effort made :  pains <took the trouble to do it right>
6 a :  a cause of distress, annoyance, or inconvenience <don't mean to be any trouble> <what's the trouble?>
   b :  a negative feature :  drawback <the trouble with you is you're too honest> <the main trouble with electronic systems is the overreliance on them — John Perham>
   c :  the unhappy or sad fact <the trouble is, I need the money>
Pregnancy out of wedlock...that's an actual line of definition for trouble? 
Wow. Now, we might have some idea of why the scripture says that Mary was greatly troubled when the angel came and announced with the words, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” I have spoken with many about the opening words to the letter of James. 

James 1:2

New International Version (NIV)

Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,

Oh hey! I'm just jumping up and down. YEAH!! Here comes trouble!
I don't see Mary doing this when the angel speaks to her. She is greatly troubled. You probably would be too. The whole idea of raising a child can be a difficult matter. Especially if you didn't plan for it. Especially if an angel just appears out of nowhere. Especially if the idea of God wanting to speak to you comes off as a omnibus, formidable presentation. Jewish people know their history. They know where they come from. Their existence has not exactly been one of great honor and privilege. There were a few good years. There were a few good kings. There was also bondage to a foreign country and exclusion from their homeland. When God spoke, it seemed, bad things happened. Prophets died. Countries rose up. People were carried off. In their present situation, these people called Romans are on top of them. Their country, their homeland, is not their own. So, pardon the young maiden if she doesn't come off as joyous and gleeful. 

Life will do that to us. We are entrenched in the idea that there is no turn lane. Or, that the road ahead is just going to be bad and that's all you can do about it. You just call it bad and deal with it. Be miserable. I used to know a guy at the Nazarene church up in Shelby, a Dr Curren I think his name was. Every Sunday morning he'd meet you coming in the sanctuary. "How you doing today?" Ok I'm ok. How are you? "I'm mirrable." If it was your first time hearing that word, you'd say - What's that? "Oh, that's about half way between miserable and terrible." And, that's what he'd tell you every Sunday. Right there in God's house. Yippee. Life is terrible and I'm going to tell everyone. 

Hope. It's something we long after.
But, all too often we long for it and have no idea how to put the word in actual motion.
Remember I said earlier it was a noun and a verb. Hadn't showed you the verb form yet.

Full Definition of HOPE

intransitive verb
1:  to cherish a desire with anticipation <hopes for a promotion>
2 archaic :  trust
transitive verb
1:  to desire with expectation of obtainment
2:  to expect with confidence :  trust 

Notice how detailed and strung out the definition on trouble is and how simplistic the definition of hope is. If it's intransitive, then it's something you can do on your own. What is it you cherish? What is it you desire? What are you anticipating? What are you putting your trust in? Is it something that is worth your trust? Is it something you can actually see coming to fruition?

Mary knows in her heart that if an angel came and told it to her, then most likely, this is going to happen. We don't always get the billboard sign moments. Many times we get the feeling or the wisdom that something will happen. Soon, she will be with Joseph. It will take him some time to come around. He will have his own vision. Then it will be transitive. The two of them together will hope for what the Lord has promised. Do you have someone to lean on? Do you have the hand of someone who can hope with you? When we hope, we expect with confidence. I have a hard time being confident on my own. But, I can do it with someone else in which to depend on. 

We have gathered here tonight and I hope that it is not with the same hum drum of ritual in mind. Do you want a better world; a world without trouble? If I could ask you what you really want this year and then pray with you, and hope with you, would that be the first step toward a better world? If I could sing a song with you, would that bring hope? Would it keep our hearts in tune as we look towards a moment when we are all forgiven and free? Maybe a song like this would do it for us.

"Better Days"

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cause I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I need someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

As we come and partake in communion tonight, we do so in remembrance of the One who makes forgiveness and new beginnings possible.

As we take a candle, we take hope into our hands. We sing of His birth. We sing of His truth, His love. We cover ourselves with faith. We lift up the light and we do not forget. 

Nobody knows the trouble we've seen.
But, hope is possible. And, we rejoice at the view point from here.

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