This sermon is from our annual Light Up Service to kick off Advent.

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:23-28a

This is always such a special night in our church. It’s a wonderful tradition we have carried over from Wilson in Florence when they chose to close and join with us, and certainly is something we treasure here now at Carman. Even if it is a busy weekend for a lot of people and churches.

This is a wonderful time for our church to come together, for a variety of reasons. It’s the start of Advent, so what better way to kick it off than with a special evening service with great music with our wider church family.

Another reason is that it’s also a good time of year to honour loved ones. Whether this is your first Christmas without loved ones, or your 50th, there’s just something about honouring, remembering and cherishing these people this time of year; a time of year we think of them most often.

I don’t know if it’s the short days and the long nights, or the weather changes, or what… but there is something that changes for us this time of year. Sure, we’re all really busy, parties, services, shopping, seeing friends, and all those good things… but our bodies seem to long for something more. There may be some days where we just aren’t sure what we’re supposed to do with ourselves. Are we supposed to be busy? Maybe we are, but somedays we just want to sit and watch a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie instead. And there’s nothing wrong with that… I think.

I saw something on Facebook just this morning, it was a tweet from last Christmas that I just have to share with you tonight… since we’re on the topic of Hallmark Christmas movies.

It’s a tweet from Peter Schultz who writes for Saturday Night Live. He says, “As a relatively successful and busy man who lives in the city, my greatest fear is losing my girlfriend to a hometown hunk with a young son who teaches her the true meaning of Christmas”

It’s funny, because if you watch any Hallmark Christmas movie, this is pretty much the plot for all of them, They all tend to follow the same pattern. Someone in the city goes home for Christmas. Life isn’t what they thought it would be. There’s tension, but then the run into an old flame, and the spark is rekindled. They fall back into love and live is happy again.

But there’s also a hint of truth in these movies. They seem to capture something that we experience in real life this time of year. It’s like there’s something missing in our lives. I know I feel it sometimes, do you? Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. I feel like there’s something more my soul is longing for, sometimes its hard to put my finger on it too. It’s like there is something that’s just not right.

You know what it’s like when you’re getting ready for bed, and you’re trying to decide if you should have one more little snack or not, it’s sort of like that, but deeper. Instead of hunger in your stomach, it’s like a hunger in your soul.

Paul writes to the church in Rome and says we “groan inwardly.” I believe this is the same feeling Paul is describing. Paul says this feeling comes because we are waiting for our adoption into God’s family. It’s the longing we feel to be in God’s presence.

And in this longing, we can find hope.

I like Paul’s comment, “hope that is seen is no hope at all.” Think about it for a moment. What is true hope? True hope is for things we don’t have, and maybe even cannot have. Why would I hope for a car when I have a car? Why would I hope for a home? I already have a home.

Hope in God though, that’s something completely different. We cannot see God, but we know he’s here. I was going to say “there” but that’s not quite accurate enough, because he’s always here with us. To say, “God is there” is to say God is distant. But he’s not. God is close, he is near.

We know he’s here, but we cannot see him physically. We can feel his presence, yet we cannot touch him. We hope in his promises to us, because we know he is real, and when we are patient, we will someday know these promises to become real.

These promises are one’s we celebrate in Advent. Today was our Sunday of hope. Jesus offers us great hope, not just in his birth, but in his promise that we will return and bring the whole earth into the family of God. We also have the promises of peace, joy and love. All these things God offers us through Jesus Christ, his Son.

When we think of things like hope, peace, joy and love, we often think of things that surround us during this time of year. Things like family and friends, or presents, or parties, or even quiet nights sitting by the tree next to the fireplace, or the fireplace channel. Whichever is best provided in your home.

But all these things only have a limited time. All of these things we might associate with the season will come and they will go. There is only on true source of hope, peace, joy and love that will stand the test of time, and that source is God, our Father in heaven.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “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.”

God calls us to do good works. God calls us to follow his Son, Jesus. All of this is part of the purpose, God’s plan. Many of you heard me talk about it this morning, God’s plan is still unfolding.

As we follow this unfolding plan, God blesses us with hope, peace, joy and love which we will never find under a tree. These gifts from God are not of this earth, they are a rich blessing from God himself that will transform our lives to be more like Jesus. And these gifts will last for all eternity.

This is the gift of God to his children. This is what we anticipate, what we wait for in this season of Advent.

This is what fills the longing, the hunger we feel in our souls. And once we are filled, we hunger no longer, for we will live in the presence of our God forevermore.

Let us pray,

Lord Jesus,

In you, as God’s Son, we find meaning. We find hope, peace, joy and love we cannot find anywhere else. And we thank you.

These gifts from God fill and transform our lives, creating us to be a new creation, giving us new life, life abundant with you. And we thank you.

Lord, walk with us through this season of Advent into Christmas joy, remembering your promise to be always near. We pray in your most holy name. Amen and amen.