Hope—First Advent

Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras

Hope—First Advent

November 29, 2020


As you know, I was born and raised in Bethlehem, Palestine. I grew up under the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It is easy to become discouraged and hopeless in this part of the world. When God called me for the ministry of word and sacrament, I was discouraged because the church closed all doors for women to become ministers. I lost all hope to become a pastor in my country. This was not God's will for me. God kept calling me, and I found a way to come to the U.S.A to do my Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and become a pastor. Like all pastors, I have faced many challenges in my ministry. The biggest challenge we are all facing is COVID-19. The pandemic has discouraged all of us by isolating us from one another. We have set our hope on the vaccine, not on Jesus Christ who sustains us. You might ask me where I find hope to keep on moving. My family and friends give me hope when I am discouraged. The source of my hope is my Lord Jesus Christ, who gives me hope in this life and eternal life.


Many of us have no hope for our relationships, job, health, finances; you name it. Some have no hope about life itself. I lost my father this September due to lung cancer. I couldn't go back to Palestine to say goodbye to him or attend his funeral because of the pandemic. Despair washed over me, and I felt like being in a swamp emotionally.

All of us have moments when we wanted to scream or walk away. Discouragement can hide behind our smile, makeup and tells us life is not worth living. If you give in to despair, it will cause you to make bad decisions or commit suicide. This is never the intention of God. God wants me and you to have goals in our lives, hope, confidence, and assurance.


Hope is an essential theme in the advent season. The Jews were discouraged by the Roman military colonization of Palestine. The Palestinians today are experiencing a similar situation to the Jews of the first century. Military occupation dehumanizes people and takes away their hope and future. God broke the darkness and hopelessness through Jesus Christ for the hopeless Jews expecting God to intervene and rescue them from their enemies.


The advent teaches me not to give in to my despair. If you keep walking with God, God has a way of making everything all right. In his letter to Romans 15:13, the apostle Paul teaches, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  How can we overflow with hope and hold in times of stress? The word of God and the fellowship of faithful Christians will help you to make it through. The Bible tells us that Christ is our only hope. The path of hope begins by being assured that you are right with God.


No matter what the devil and the world tell me, I know that Christ has redeemed me, and I am valuable. My fellowship with Christ has taught me when I set my foot in the valley of the shadow of death, I know I have started my way out because God is with me.


Many of us are wounded. You are being harassed and bonded in your mind that God has abounded you to face your uncertain situation alone. I've been there. However, I have learned that the only way out is to bring my broken heart to Jesus Christ. I also knew that "Hope is not a feeling, hope is a path, and that path is going to take you through tribulation and affliction."[1] When you become hopeless, follow the advice of the author of Hebrews (4:16) "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."


Hope is about living. Hope is about what you do now. Hope means believing that in God's time, God will deliver and transform you and you will experience overflowing hope. At some point, you will experience suffering so severe you do not think you will be able to survive another day. In his first letter to Thessalonians 5:16-18, the apostle Paul says, "16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Sometimes it is impossible to give thanks in a challenging situation. It is difficult to give thanks in times of pandemic, death, trial, and suffering.


I experienced giving thanks in the most challenging moment in my life. After my father passed away, I began to give thanks to God because God did not extend his suffering. My father's battle with cancer lasted for two months. Despite the grief, God's mercy touched my broken heart and inspired me to be thankful. The advent season message focuses on God's desire to be with us in our grief, sorrow, and tribulation through Jesus Christ.

My friends, "Failure is not falling down, it is not getting up again."[2] So, if your suffering pushed you down, then I tell you in Jesus' name, get up and walk toward your hope in Jesus Christ. Do not let your hopelessness make you a prisoner.  The apostle Paul tells you, "No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). And I assure you, as long as Christ is seated at the right hand of God, the Father, interceding for you, there is hope for you.


[1] http://ms.decentify.co/never-lose-hope-trust-in-god-inspirational-motivational-video/

[2] Mary Pickford, https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/527606.Mary_Pickford.