Christmas is Hope

Pastor Ichiro Okiebisu
December 24, 2023, at Japanese Language Worship

Matthew 2:9-11
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

In hard times, all we need to change the status quo is hope. Where there is hope, there is strength to hang on. Christmas is the hope that God gives. The birth of the Son of God is the hope of Israel and the whole world, something that was prophesied throughout the Old Testament.

 Now, here is today's passage. The Magi had the hope of the Messiah. They knew, perhaps from the writings of Daniel, that the Messiah was about to be born in the land of the Jews. They came over thousands of miles from the east for that hope.

We need hope! How not to despair = to have hope.
For Israel, the Savior was hope. In the midst of political oppression, economic difficulties, and difficult circumstances, they did not despair because they had hope. The same is true in our lives. As long as we hold on to hope, we may be disappointed, but we will not despair. On the other hand, hopelessness is a disease. Once you have this disease, you lose the power to live.

Hope determines the direction of a person's life. Hope guides our lives.

 Another thing we know about hope is that it guides our lives.
 Now, after holding on to hope, the Magi finally have the moment to meet hope. Just as the stars guided them, hope will guide their lives in the right direction.

Hope itself is an idea or a plan, but once we grasp it, it becomes the goal of our life. Therefore, hope is important. And we can actively live toward the realization of that hope.

 Consider student life. Some people like to study, and some do not. There are also those who are good at it and those who are not. Those who like to study or are good at it will naturally study and get good grades. Then, how about those who don't like it? If there is no hope, they will end up not studying. But if they have hope, i.e., a goal for the future, they will study hard even if they don't like it or are not good at it. Then, they will make their hope come true.
 In other words, hope leads one's life toward hope.
This principle is the same for work or anything else. If you have a goal, you have a direction for your life. And they work diligently toward it.

Things that are not hope. Egoism
Hope is so important, but there is something that imitates hope, but it is not. One of them is egoism.
Egoism is selfish and prideful. Egoism thinks that it is good as long as it is good only for oneself. Hope is something we share with others, but Egoism cannot be shared with others.

The villain of the Christmas story is Herod the Great. He was a king. He was proud and would not tolerate anyone if they were above him, even God. The humble person places God above himself. By placing God, he is submissive to God, and he can have good hope. Prideful people’s selfish egoism is hated by their surrounding people. Beware of egoism, and don't mistake your own personal wishes and your own personal betterment as hope.

Expectations and Disappointments
It is not only egoism that prevents us from having hope. Repeated disappointment with false hope leads to a lack of hope. This false hope is “expectations."

Expectations become depression when people are disappointed. Expectations are not a bad thing, but if you hear yourself saying, "I was let down," or "I was betrayed," it is because you have set your wrong expectations. Hope in God is based on the promises of the Bible. Expectations of God, on the other hand, are often personal desires.

The same is true for people. Many people expect and are disappointed.
 spouses expect from other spouses.
 Parents expect from their children.
 The people expect from their politicians.
 Young people expect from society and companies.
 Society and companies expect from young people.
 From my experience, I have seen people disappointed by their expectations. Most of them have wrong expectations. And, conclusively speaking, they are disappointed at their own expectations. Rather, expectations should be used to "encourage" others. If you do so, you will not be so disappointed with the results. Expectations are to encourage the person to do his/her best.

1 Corinthians 13:7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 This is the place where the definition of love is written. The context shows that this expectation is not for oneself but for the other person. If someone says to you, "I have no expectations of you," you will feel very bad.

 Israel had wrong expectations of their Messiah. Their Messiah was supposed to be a great statesman who would free Israel from Roman oppression. He would be a military commander controlling armies and rule over all the surrounding nations. But Jesus was not that kind of Messiah. Jesus was not the Messiah who destroyed enemies, but the Messiah who set people free from sin. If we have wrong expectations, if we think of them as hope, and if we seek them incessantly, such hope will not lead us to the good life.

The Hope the Messiah Gives
Today, let us review the hope that God gives. Let us begin by looking at the offerings of the Magi. The Magi offered three gifts clarifying three hopes in God.

I. The Hope of Gold
Gold is the glory of God. In this age, evil thrives, and darkness covers. Those who are suffering from exploitation can easily lose hope. But God is still at work as the King of glory.
What I have been telling you for three weeks is that this world is God's story. God has been fulfilling this story from beginning to end. And it will end with God's total justice. Right now, the era of suffering continues due to many wars and civil wars. No one can extend the hand of justice anymore. We don't even know what justice is anymore. In a sense, justice is performed by complete justice, not by a degree of it.
But God is there. God will judge all evil.
II. The Hope of frankincense
 Frankincense is tenderness. God is the One who loves.
The birth of Jesus is called Immanuel. This means that God is with us. When Jesus came, God was always with the disciples. There is nothing more reassuring than having a loving God with us. We cannot see Him now, but He is with us. He is the one who carries our pain and weakness with Him.

 Jesus is the one who smells good. It is better than any perfume. It is a fragrance that transforms our defilement into a clean heart and spirit.
 No matter what our circumstances are today, Jesus' love gives us the hope that all will be made good.

 Romans 8:28.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

III. The Hope of the Medicine of myrrh
This is for the dead. But Jesus’ death gives us life. We are living towards death. Just like a terminal cancer patient, there is no hope of being cured, only for a longer life. Medicine cannot take away the burden and fear of death.

But with the death of Jesus, we are given the hope of eternal life. God's gift is clearly shown. It is the forgiveness of our sins and His acceptance of us as children of God.

John 6:40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Christmas is the hope that God gives us.
When we have real hope, it not only gives us the strength to live but also leads us down the right path.
 When we have hope, we do not become desperate.
 When we have hope, we persevere for the sake of that hope.
 When we have hope, life changes from backward to forward.
 I heard a story the other day about a CEO. When he was just a beginning employee, he made a big mistake. However, the president at that time did not let him take responsibility for it but rather encouraged him by saying, "I have never seen anyone make such a big mistake before. This kind of man could be great in the future. He believed these words, and these words gave him hope. He worked hard and contributed to the company more than his big failure. And he became the president of that company.

 Hope guides us right. And there will come a time when that hope will be fulfilled. It is the time when Jesus will come to earth once more as the Messiah.

Let’s pray.