Advent 2020

Hope Against Hope

I don’t know how many people still have any of their Christmas presents from 1993, but I have one of mine. In fact, I don’t remember anything else I got for Christmas that year. I remember getting a Raiders Starter Jacket for my 13th birthday, but I don’t remember any of my Christmas gifts. This Christmas gift did not appear on any of my lists. I know this because, while I don’t remember what I got for Christmas, I am confident that I didn’t ask for a Biblical commentary of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

This is not just any commentary, this commentary was written by my dad. Here is the inscription he wrote to me in 1993:

Dear Austin,

This book represents a lot of who I am. By reading it you will know what your dad believed and what he thought was important. I hope you will enjoy having it. Someday you may even want to pass it on to your children. I am proud to give it to you as my son.

Love,
Dad
December 25, 1993

The official title of the book is: “Romans: The Gospel of God”. If you have done any study of Romans this is as accurate a title as you can get. As we discussed on The First Sunday of Advent Jesus came from the line of David. This line, if you remember from the reading, started with Abraham. It is not an accident then, that the phrase “Hope Against Hope” is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans in reference to Abraham.

Here’s how my dad describes the hope of Abraham in his commentary:

When God called Abraham, He gave [Abraham] a promise to make [Abraham] the father of a great nation. And [God] called [Abraham] to follow Him to a land that He would show [Abraham]. That was all that Abraham had to go on. There was no previous history, no Bible stories of great men of faith, no evidence to prove that God could be trusted. All Abraham had was God’s word. And he simply chose to trust that word.

Read – Romans 4:13-21

Here’s the 18th verse again, don’t miss this:

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told…

The idea that God is our Heavenly Father is taught from an early age. You have likely heard baptism end with the words, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And of course at this time of year we focus on Jesus being the Son of God. But what about Abraham? Why does Paul spend so much time talking about Abraham? The people he is talking to already know EVERYTHING about Abraham.

We know everything about Abraham. Just as the idea that God is our Heavenly Father is taught early in our lives, we were taught a song called, “Father Abraham”. It is full of silly motions you do with your hands and your arms and feet and legs. You can probably sing it in your head as you read these words:

“Father Abraham had many sons,
many sons had Father Abraham.

I am one of them, and so are you,
So let’s just praise the lord.”

WAIT A MINUTE: I am one of them, and so are you? Is that song saying that we are the sons and daughters of Abraham? Here’s my dad again:

This is, of course, the heart of Paul’s message. It was because of Abraham’s faith, that he was declared righteous. Abraham certainly didn’t demonstrate sinless perfection. On the contrary, we see a real human falling short of God’s glory just like we do. But Abraham chose to trust God. And by that was able to receive God’s righteousness. So God brought him into a relationship with Him because of Abraham’s willingness to trust him.

This is the essence of the Gospel message…

Paul wanted to make sure his readers understood that this discussion about Abraham was more than simply an exercise in history. It was a prototype of what was to come. Abraham’s response to God must be our response to God.

Paul is practically drawing us a family tree right in the middle of his letter. That simple little song is the very foundation of our faith. A song we have likely sung hundreds of times in two short couplets defines our place in the lineage of Jesus. Read it again:

“Father Abraham had many sons,
many sons had Father Abraham.

I am one of them, and so are you,
So let’s just praise the lord.”

In a year where everything seems upside down, where there are so many reason to lose hope, do not forget: “All Abraham had was God’s word. And he simply chose to trust that word.” – Dr. Brian A. Lee

Hope against hope.

Sing – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Pray

Almighty God, grant us in equal measure; Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Hope in a Savior, Peace in our world, Joy in our hearts, and Love for our fellow man. In the name of Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate this Advent season, Amen.

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