United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

Date: November 28, 2021

Sermon Title: “Hope in the Valley”

By: Minister Kimberly Braxton


Focus Scripture: Luke 21:25-36


Grant me a “preacher’s liberty” when I deliver the word this morning. The Word is simple, “There is Hope in the Valley” Looking at Psalm 23.


Let us pray.


I hope everyone had a lovely in person Thanksgiving celebration filled with family, friends, and lots of zero calorie foods that we get to indulge in guilt free for up to three days post-thanksgiving. As Advent begins everyone is entering into this season with HOPE. Retailers HOPE to make up all their losses for the year in a mere three-day shopping frenzy and fall into the black; Amateur chefs HOPE that the latest recipe they saw on Pinterest will be a Hit at the holiday season; the world HOPES that Covid would behave long enough so we can enjoy one another’s company in person, and we as Christians get to take a moment on in our liturgical season to commemorate the HOPE of Christ’s return and celebrate His birth.


In today’s reading. Jesus was talking about the signs that would occur prior to His return. Verses 25 through 26 from the Message version of the text here are a few items we should be mindful of “It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.”


Doesn’t this sound like the word we are living in currently? Between climate change, CoVid, and all the other crazy, unprecedented - out of the ordinary events that have hit us beginning in 2020 through the present it feels like now, more than ever we are approaching the timeframe that Jesus was referring to in this morning’s text. The end times as the old saints would call it. The time when He, the Son of Man, would come again.


In this text Jesus is encouraging us to stay focused and maintain our HOPE even in the midst of an Outlook that isn’t always bright, shiny and perfect. In the middle of all this confusion He was and is encouraging us to remain HOPE filled because all these events that we cannot explain, that we are unable to frame in a polite, respectable context point to the fact that one day, and one day soon He will come again to fulfill His word to us. In the face of the uncertain Jesus still provides us with HOPE. But why do we as followers of Christ need to be reminded of this foundational truth? We know that Christ was born, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. It is etched into our liturgical utterances.


Think about it - - in the same way that we recite the “Our Father” prayer we recite the “Apostles Creed” I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.


Why do we need Advent to remind us of the promised hope that the

promised Messiah will come again? Because waiting is hard. Even the bible states in Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” And staying focused and dedicated during a period of extended waiting is even harder.


As we wait, and wait, and wait, for the Lord’s return it’s easy to get lulled into feeling that He won’t return in our lifetime. And as we begin to get lulled into the feeling of “he’s not coming anytime soon” the Message version of the text states our “expectation dulls” and we let our guards down. Verses 34 through 35 state “But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep at the wheel.”


So let’s make this concept more relatable. Think back to when you were in school. There was always that one teacher or professor that would put on their syllabus that they give pop quizzes. Now, at the beginning of the semester you did all the class reading in advance and you were prepared for the possibility that this would be the day that the pop quiz would come. But as the semester wore on and no quizzes were given who here started to get a little lack with the reading? Still no quiz.


So now you get really free. Did you even open the book or review your notes? Still no quiz. The semester continues and now, you’re coming to class late, sure there won’t be a quiz because there hasn’t been one so far and the semester is almost over. Not a single pop quiz.


Then ONE day… You hear the teacher announce, “Clear your desks”. And as the panic starts to rise and you begin to choke on the regret you feel for not completing the reading assignments you let slide by because you were so sure there wouldn’t be a pop quiz.

Now the teacher is busy handing out the quiz. And as the students who were not prepared begin to whine, “I’m not prepared! This isn’t fair!”


What’s the response? “Why aren’t you prepared? I told you to expect pop quizzes. It was on the syllabus.” In the same way we can look at this passage of scripture as our proverbial spiritual syllabus. I mean if you want to play the odds there is a temptation to think “if He’s waited this long. Most likely another decade, generation or three won’t make a difference. “A day is like a thousand years” in God’s timing. The problem with this thinking is that since we don’t know the actual date and time there is no way to know exactly when He will arrive so there is no way to prepare in advance. The one thing that is concrete in the text is that Jesus says, “Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.” Or

as the NIV says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” So it will happen. We just don’t know when.


In our waiting Jesus warns us to “But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping.” It’s like He knew that we are capable of filling our time with distractions when left to our own devices. Now, if we knew the date of His arrival, we would be able to plan our shenanigans in advance and cut them off in enough time to be ready for His return the same way a student will cram for an exam when they know the date of the test in advance.


But a pop quiz can ruin someone’s day and/or GPA if you aren’t prepared. But if you took the time to do the assigned readings and complete the required assignments a pop quiz wouldn’t be a problem. You wouldn’t have to get ready to take the quiz because you were already prepared.


Let me give you an example. I have an uncle let’s call him Doug. And growing up Uncle Doug had a habit of just stopping by the house, unannounced for visits. The truth is we never knew when Uncle Doug was gonna stop by or who he was going to bring with him. Sometimes he would bring his entire family; other times he would just bring the boys; or just come by himself. Although these visits were always a surprise my parents were somehow always prepared. There was a coffee pot set up to brew a fresh pot and an Entenmann’s coffee cake available for serving. So when he arrived he was welcomed and received as an honored guest. They didn’t

have to get ready to receive the unexpected company. They were already ready the only thing they needed to do is open the door and welcome him in.


Now put yourself in that position. It’s the holiday season and everyone is so excited this year to be able to meet in person face-to-face. How would you receive an uninvited family member at your door? Would you have to run around first and do some emergency spot cleaning? Get out of the comfy house clothes and put something fresh and clean on? Would you open the  door with a smile or a snarl or a sarcastic comment, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t

realize that your mobile phone was disconnected and you weren’t able to CALL FIRST.” Or would you turn off the lights, not make a sound and be silent hoping they think you weren’t home and go back to where they came from…



The message this morning simple, stay focused and remain watchful. Don’t get so busy with our day-to-day life and all the glorious distractions of modern day living and forget that we serve a God that is active, that is alive, and one that told us one day unexpectantly He would return. Revelation 3 verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”


As we wait expectantly for the Savior’s return we can rest in the knowledge of knowing our HOPE in Him is not a mistake, it hasn’t been misplaced and at the appropriate time, the time of His choosing, He will return. In this passage we can receive hope even in the middle of difficult circumstances and unprecedented opposition. In the face of Covid and its seemingly never-ending variants. In the face of climate change and new dangerous weather

patterns we still have hope. And we will be prepared to receive Him when he appears.


Don’t grow weary in your waiting. Remind yourself this advent season of the faith and hope you’ve placed in the Messiah.