Just think…there was a time when there was no Christmas celebration in the way that we think of it. No Christmas decorations; no Christmas carols; no presents. Think about the individuals who are listed in Hebrews chapter 11. How did they celebrate Christmas?
Do you remember the top three words of Christmas? Faith, Hope, Love (1 Corinthians 13:13) That's how they celebrated Christmas! Love for God (which set the direction of their lives); Faith in God (which fueled their lives); and Hope in God (which was their destination)!
The Definition of Faith
Faith is the substance of our hope.
Noah Webster defines substance as... Something real, not imaginary; something solid, not empty.
You’ll remember that Hope is that desire to experience some good and having reasonable expectation that we will receive it. Faith takes that which we have not yet experienced and makes it real.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
None of us have yet experienced eternal life in Heaven but faith makes it a reality to us right now as if we have already experienced it!
Faith is the foundation of our hope.
The word, “substance,” literally means “a setting under” or “support.”
The foundation of our faith is not the Pope; it is not a church or a religion; it is not a government. Our faith in God and in God’s Word is the only foundation of our faith!
The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God; the B-I-B-L-E!
Faith is the evidence of things not seen.
Faith gives substance to the unseen realities.
Faith believes what it sees not.
Faith is to the believer what physical evidence is to sight.
However, our faith is unreasonable and down right absurd to the world!
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
The faith of Joshua and the Israelites was evidence of things not seen. It was a faith in God’s Word. God had already promised the victory; it was assured! But this was also a faith that was unreasonable and absurd to those living in Jericho at that time! (“How do they expect to conquer our city simply by walking around it?”)
The Testimony of Faith
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
“By faith...” is how each individual in Hebrews chapter 11 is introduced. They had a testimony of faith in God. And, their testimony, because it was one of faith, was a testimony that was pleasing to the Lord?
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
We all have faith. What - or who - is our faith in? We all have a testimony of faith. Is our testimony one that is pleasing to God? Is it a testimony of faith in God and in God’s Word?
The accounts that we read in Hebrews chapter 11 were also testimonies of love. Each account shows a direction set towards God and the things of God, not the things of this world! Take a moment to read Hebrews 11:24-27 and see the love which Moses had for God.
Would we have refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter knowing that that would have been a refusal of everything that the world had to offer?
Would we have chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God? (Do you side with the Christian in your office who is always being ridiculed for their faith or do you conveniently find a reason to go to the mail room instead?)
Would we have valued the reproach of Christ more than all the treasures of Egypt?
By faith, have we forsaken the world?
The accounts that we read in Hebrews chapter 11 were also testimonies of hope! The hope of each of these mighty men and women of faith was a hope that was spiritual; a hope that was not of this world! Take a moment to read Hebrews 11:13-16.
[By faith]...others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
"...not accepting deliverance..." This was physical and in this world.
"...that they might obtain a better resurrection:" This was spiritual and in the world to come!
Where is your hope? Is it in this life or in the life to come? What is your hope? Is it something spiritual or something physical? Biblical hope is something spiritual, not physical, and it is something that is not of this world but is in the world to come!
Rejoicing in Hope
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
The world considered the men and women of Hebrews chapter 11 as not being valuable but foolish when, in reality, the men and women, by faith obtained and held onto the only thing that has any lasting value. Truly the men and women of Hebrews chapter 11 illustrated with their lives the truth of Romans 5...
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Most have seen or read Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” At the end of the story, after the Grinch has stolen all the presents, decorations, food, etc. all the Whos still celebrate Christmas.
"It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!" "It came without packages, boxes or bags!" And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store." "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
What’s interesting to me, though, is the fact that Dr. Seuss never explains what that “little bit more” is! But we all know that it is Love, Faith & Hope! And that is all that is needed to celebrate Christmas!