True hope can be a very powerful thing. Hope can bring out the very best in us. Biblical hope is different from desiring and wishing for something to occur. My Biblical dictionary defines hope as “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. It’s the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance. It is the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future”.
As a child, I used to look forward to Christmas. Even though I understood the story of Christ as being the reason for it, I looked forward to Christmas for the same reason as all other children. Santa was coming to bring me presents. One year I had only one present that I wished for. I wanted my toy kitchen set. I remember hoping and wishing, and writing to Santa about it. And on Christmas morning there it was with a large bow on it. But that type of hope is different from the hope that Christmas asks of us. Our hope is to be based in the love and care of God. Our hope is to be a part of our daily experiences and based in our trust in the work of God.
As Christians we have experienced the work of God in our lives and in our world. As Christians we are to trust that just as God has touched our lives in the past that God will touch our lives in the future as his plans for this world unfold in the prophesied time to come. But what does that trust, that hope look like? It appears in our dedication to his word and work in the world. It is present in our dedication to our worship of him and our continued commitment to learn how to live into his love with each day.
It appears in how we support his works in our communities, in our nation, and in our world. When we think about the peace of Christ and the hope of spreading such peace to a world in need, we need to assess what we do and how we have committed ourselves to that end. Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal Dreams, wrote “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof”. We need to live into the hope of a better tomorrow. We need to live into the message of the Christ child. We need to live into the promised peace as if it were to come through the works of our hands and our communities.
So how do we do this? How do we live into the hope and peace of the season every day? There are several ways and our scriptures from Malachi speak to this. Malachi says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” Tithes in the ancient world were the people’s way of showing their dedication and commitment to the work of the Lord. And it remains so to this day. It is how we support God’s continued work through our communities of faith in the lives of individuals, the local community, and in the world around us. Malachi speaks of tithing or giving but it’s not just people giving materially but also giving of themselves spiritually and of their time.
It is a giving that reinforces the will of God, the plans of God that work to bring about the hoped for world that is inherent in the story of the Christ child. A world that lives in the love and peace of God, and strives for the joy that brings new life to troubled peoples everywhere. It is in our dedication, in our gifts, in our support for the work of God, done through our hands and in our community that helps to bring about God’s peace, understanding, and mercy. It is through our annual gifts to the church that we bring Zechariah’s prophecy into today’s world and help to make it’s message of hope, love, peace, and joy come alive for our world in a time when we could use more compassion, more understanding, more love, and more hope for a better tomorrow.
So if you haven’t considered filling out a yearly pledge card, which aids in our ability to plan for our ministries in this world, there are extra pledge cards in the Narthex, in the welcome center in the Old Academy building, and in the church office. So this morning, I leave you with the words of Zechariah, words that remind us that just as the hands of John the Baptist worked to bring forth the peace of God so too do the works of our hands and our communities, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Go forth and dedicate yourselves to God’s vision for tomorrow through your giving financially, spiritually, and the commitment of your talents to help bring about the promised time of peace for the generations to come.
 Holman Bible Dictionary
 Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams. 20th century.
 Malachi 3: 1-10, NRSV.
 Luke 1: 78-79, NRSV.
(Based on Malachi 3: 1-10 and Luke 1: 68-79)