4th Sunday of Advent

The Star: ​​ A Journey of Peace

(Mark 4:35-41; Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – Peace Bumper video

 

This is the final Sunday of Advent. ​​ What an amazing season it has been as we’ve journeyed together toward Christmas. ​​ We’ve learned together that the word Advent is a version of a Latin term meaning “coming.” ​​ The Israelites were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. ​​ It was a highly anticipated event. ​​ There was great expectation. ​​ Each Israelite family had hoped that their baby boy would be the Messiah. ​​ Their expectation was that the Messiah would bring peace, but it wasn’t the kind of peace they were hoping for.

 

We hear celebrities, politicians, some adults, and especially children talk about wanting world peace. ​​ As followers of Jesus Christ, we are waiting for the second coming of Jesus when true peace will be established. ​​ We wait with hope for the new heaven and the new earth, where the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a child will lead them (Isaiah 11:6). ​​ As we wait for Jesus’ second coming and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, we continue on our faith journey that will include hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

Perhaps one of the greatest stories of peace is the story behind the song “It Is Well with My Soul.”

 

[Show VIDEO – It Is Well With My Soul: ​​ The Story Behind the Hymn – Horatio Spafford (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvq3pYsHidA)]

 

Peace is a lot like joy, it can be experienced even when there is turmoil and chaos, hardship, trouble, violence, and fear. ​​ As the hymn so beautifully captures, this journey of peace is not immune from those things. ​​ In fact, they are central to the story. ​​ On this journey, we learn that peace is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of God.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Minimally high blood sugar and blood pressure

        • It wasn’t long after moving from Ohio to Missouri that I went to the doctor for a regular physical

        • The bloodwork caused the doctor to order a glucose tolerance test

        • Those are always fun, aren’t they, especially for someone who hates needles

        • The test revealed that I had minimally high blood sugar

        • I was also struggling with minimally high blood pressure numbers

        • The doctor asked me all the questions they normally ask to determine if there was anything I should stop doing

          • Do you smoke? ​​ (No)

          • Do you drink alcohol? (No)

          • Do you take drugs? (No)

        • The doctor then asked me a couple of other questions

          • Do you exercise regularly? (No)

          • Are you under any stress? (YES!)

            • We had just moved to Missouri not long before the appointment

            • We had bought our first home

            • I started a new job at the Headquarters of Child Evangelism Fellowship

            • Judy had had a miscarriage before we moved to Missouri and now she was expecting Levi

        • The doctor’s response was, “Well, there’s nothing I can tell you to stop doing, but I would encourage you to start exercising every day.”

    • Daily exercise

        • I started riding a stationary bike in our basement

        • I started out slow and eventually was riding between 20-30 minutes a day

        • I lost a little bit of weight, I didn’t need to lose much back then

        • The cardio-vascular work out was good for my heart

        • We started eating a low sugar diet also

    • Peace in the middle of trouble

        • Exercise was a part of what I started doing, but I also started praying

        • Prayer is what motivated me to continue to exercise and it helped to bring me peace

        • I knew that everything was going to be alright, because God was with me

 

  • WE

    • What pain are you facing this season?

    • What struggles are weighing you down?

    • What anxiety and stress are stirring up chaos in your spirit?

    • Those pressures and problems can be both external and internal

        • We often take the external pressures and problems and internalize them

          • When we internalize those pressures and problems we begin to experience health problems

          • It’s our body’s way of telling us that something isn’t right

          • Stomach ulcers are a sign that our body is producing too much acid

          • High blood pressure can be an indication that stress is present

          • Headaches and muscle aches can be an indicator that our bodies are tense

          • Insomnia can be a result of our brains trying to process the problems and pressures we are experiencing

    • Are you willing to open your heart to God’s peace even in the midst of your struggles?

 

Through this journey of peace, today, we can be assured that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God’s presence provides peace.

 

Let’s pray

 

This journey of peace is certainly an appropriate journey for our world today. ​​ Just as the ancient Roman world must have felt during that first Christmas, our world seems full of violence and warfare and uncertainty. ​​ And the pressures of our daily lives barrage us at an unparalleled pace. ​​ Ours is a world in desperate need of peace! ​​ But it is a world where the Prince of Peace has walked and understood. ​​ He has come, and He is present. ​​ His peace is available to us today.

 

  • GOD

    • Peace in the Midst (Mark 4:35-41)

        • The first Christmas

          • We sing about that first Christmas night being a silent night where everything was calm and bright

          • I’m not sure that’s exactly what the characters in the Christmas story were experiencing

            • The city of Bethlehem was hustling and bustling with an influx of those who were from the line of David

            • The city was filled to beyond capacity with people from all over the region

            • These travelers were tired, dirty, and probably testy

            • Everyone was trying to find a place to stay and perhaps food to eat

            • Mary and Joseph were perhaps anxious, nervous, and stressed as Mary went through her first delivery

            • It was shortly after giving birth that the shepherds began to arrive

          • King Herod

            • Sometime during Jesus’ first two years of life, the Magi arrived in Jerusalem

            • They questioned King Herod about the whereabouts of the baby who had been born king of the Jews

            • Matthew tells us that King Herod was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3)

            • The news of Jesus’ birth did not bring peace to King Herod and since the King was disturbed, so were his subjects

            • King Herod ordered that all the boys, two years of age and younger, living in Bethlehem and the surrounding vicinity, were to be killed (Matthew 2:16)

            • Imagine the chaos King Herod’s order created in Bethlehem and the surrounding villages

            • The parents of two year old boys and younger were not experiencing peace

          • Application

            • Can you relate to the chaos that those who were part of the first Christmas were experiencing?

              • Perhaps you’re going to be traveling or have already traveled to be here this morning and you understand the exhaustion, frustration, and testiness that the travelers in the 1st Century felt

              • Maybe you’re experiencing the interruptions of a quiet family time together as others come to see you

              • Some of you may be experiencing the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one during this Christmas season, so you understand the exhaustion and emotions involved in both of those scenarios

            • Our journey of peace this season is not one separated from the realities of life but a journey of peace in the midst of life with all its noise and chaos

            • VIDEO – “The Rain Keeps Falling Andrew Peterson Lyrics” ​​ [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn8cbI9jFGc]

              • The lyrics contain a long and honest confession of so many struggles

              • Notice that interjected into and over the lyrics are the words of Jesus, “Peace. ​​ Be still.”

              • We can have peace in the midst of life in a fallen world with God’s presence in our lives

              • The words that Jesus spoke are found in Mark 4:35-41

        • Jesus calming the storm

          • Read Mark 4:35-41

          • The disciples were in a situation where they felt helpless

          • They were afraid!

          • Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat – the storm did not bother Him

          • After the disciples woke Him up, He immediately rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet, Be still!” (most translations have “Peace, Be still!”

          • Jesus asked His disciples why they were so afraid

            • His second question concerned their faith in Him

            • The disciples should have known by this point that Jesus was all-powerful

            • His power, from God, extended to all of creation

            • God’s presence was with Jesus, so Jesus’ presence provides peace

          • Application

            • Jesus’ presence in our lives provides peace also

            • We don’t have to be fear when pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress stir up chaos in our spirit

            • We can have faith in Jesus who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign

            • Perhaps you need to express that faith today

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust by faith in the peace that Jesus’ presence can bring during the pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress I am currently experiencing.

              • I’ve found that Jesus’ peace can be found in reading God’s Word the Bible

              • It can also be found in praying – that’s us talking to God

              • God talking to us requires us to sit quietly and patiently before Him – we can experience peace in those moments as well

              • Some people have a specific place where they go to find peace from the chaos of their lives

        • Jesus brings peace right into the center of our hurt and frantic striving

        • He brings power to cease the noise, calm the storm, and overwhelm our hearts with His restorative sense of perfect peace

        • He is indeed the Prince of Peace

    • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

        • Isaiah 9:6, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. ​​ And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

          • Peace is not just a feeling or a state of being

          • Peace is a person

          • Jesus is the Prince of Peace

          • By sending His Son, God sent peace into the world

            • Paul tells the Ephesian Gentiles that before they came to faith in Christ, they were separate from Christ

              • Ephesians 2:12, remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

              • That is the condition of every person who is born – we are separated from God and Christ and we have no hope

              • Sin is what separates us from God and Christ

              • Sin is the rejection of God and His authority in our lives

              • We become our own boss/authority

              • God’s Word tells us that when we reject Him and become our own boss, that there is a consequence for that – for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)

            • When we reject God and His plans and way we are really at war with Him

              • Perhaps you’ve experienced that in the past or are experiencing that right now

              • You know that God is pursuing you, because He puts people in your life who talk to you about Him

              • Your reaction towards them is harsh and unkind, not because you don’t like them but because you’re at war with God – you’re not at peace with God

              • Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty talks about his life in his book Happy, Happy, Happy

                • He thought he was happy, but he was busy “romping, stomping, and ripping with [his] drinking buddies”

                • He owned a honky-tonk bar at this point in his life

                • His sister decided that Phil needed to hear about Jesus, so she brought her pastor, Bill Smith, with her to the bar

                • This was Phil’s reaction, “‘You some kind of preacher?’ ​​ I immediately asked him. ​​ When Smith told me he was, I added, ‘You ever been drunk?’ ​​ ‘Yes, I used to drink a few beers,’ he told me. ​​ ‘Well, what’s the difference between you and me?’ ​​ I asked him. ​​ ‘You’ been drunk, and I’m getting drunk right now. ​​ There ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between you and me, Jack. ​​ You ain’t putting any Bible on me. ​​ That’s the way I was born.’” [Robertson, Happy, Happy, Happy, 79]

            • God made a way for us to reconciled to Him – to have peace with Him

              • It is through the Prince of Peace – Jesus!

              • Ephesians 2:14-18, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. ​​ His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. ​​ He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. ​​ For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

                • In this passage, Paul is talking to both Jews and Gentiles

                • He was explaining that through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, all people could now be reconciled to God – it wasn’t just for the Jews anymore

                • Jesus’ sacrifice brought peace between the Jews and the Gentiles

                • It also brought peace between God and humanity

                • Romans 5:1, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

                  • There is nothing we can do on our own to deal with our sin problem

                  • There is nothing we can do on our own to deal with our rejection of God

                  • God in His infinite wisdom, justice, and love provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him – to have peace with Him

                  • It is through faith in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross

                  • Justified can be defined as “just as if I have never sinned”

                  • That is how God sees us when we admit we are sinners, repent of our sins, and trust in Jesus by faith

              • Perhaps you’re ready to be reconciled to God today – to be at peace with God

                • You’re ready to end the war with God

                • You’re ready to accept God’s authority in your life instead of rejecting it

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Recognize Jesus as the Prince of Peace, admit I am a sinner, repent of my sins, and have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

        • Peace with God does not guarantee freedom from pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress

          • We are human and still fallible

          • We still make mistakes and fail to trust God in every area of our lives

          • Mary’s example

            • In the midst of all that was happening that first Christmas, we are told that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19)

            • On the surface, Mary’s life did not become more peaceful

            • If anything, things got crazier with the announcement of her miraculous pregnancy and the birth of a new baby

            • But Mary was learning to trust the One who was in control

          • When we can surrender control – stop worrying, stop planning, stop striving – to the Prince of Peace, we can find rest in Him

            • The inner and outer chaos, anxiety, noise, and busyness of life may not change, but we can experience peace because we trust the One in control

            • Where do you need to surrender and enter the journey of peace this season?

            • I want to encourage you to pause and embrace the words of the Psalmist, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

            • The same things I mentioned earlier about how to find Jesus’ peace also apply to being still, and knowing that God is God (reading God’s Word, spending time in prayer, and repeating Scripture)

            • This can happen in the morning before your day begins, throughout your day as needed, and before going to bed

        • While we can experience peace through Jesus Christ, we also realize that the world around us may still be experiencing pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress

    • Peace for the World (John 14:27)

        • All we have to do is look at the news coverage to realize that our world is not at peace

          • Countries are at war (Our young people are concerned about what North Korea is capable of doing right now – they’re concerned that they have the ability to launch an attack on the eastern part of the United States)

          • Refugees are far from home

          • Our neighbors are hurting

          • There is violence in our schools

          • Church leadership teams are discussing strategies to provide a safe and secure environment for their parishioners to worship in

          • There is anger in our families

        • While Jesus brought peace to the earth when He came the first time, it is not a perfect or complete peace

          • We live in the tension between the already and not yet

          • We know that Jesus has won the battle over sin and death, but the manifestation of that victory is still to be revealed when Jesus comes again

          • In the interim, we are encouraged to draw close to God and to rely on Him for His peace

          • God’s presence provides peace

          • Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ​​ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

            • God’s peace doesn’t make sense to us as humans

            • It’s beyond our understanding sometimes

            • Have you or someone you’ve known experienced that kind of peace?

              • Perhaps they’ve gotten news about their health that is concerning, but instead of worrying about it they immediately began to pray and while they should be stressed, they’re at peace

              • When someone losses their job or is just struggling financially, yet they’re not anxious about the situation, but are trusting God, it doesn’t make sense – that’s the peace of God that transcends our understanding

            • Our natural inclination is to worry, fret, and complain instead of turning to God in prayer, waiting on Him, and experiencing His peace

              • So often we come to God asking Him to change our circumstances or those around us

              • Sometimes God answers our prayer by changing our circumstances or those around us

              • More often, He uses the difficult circumstances to change us – He wants us to be transformed and to grow in our faith

              • He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign

              • He knows what’s best for us

              • He will not give us more than we are able to bear, without providing a way of escape

              • Perhaps you’re feeling anxious, right now, about a particular circumstance in your life

              • Now is the time to turn to God in prayer and present your petitions to Him with thanksgiving

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Turn to God in prayer with thanksgiving about the circumstance I’m feeling anxious about.

          • Jesus gave His disciples a promise that is still relevant for us today

            • He promised them the gift of peace

            • John 14:27, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. ​​ I do not give to you as the world gives. ​​ Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

            • We can claim that promise for ourselves

            • We don’t have to be afraid, because we serve a God who is in control of everything

            • Whatever is causing you pain, struggle, anxiety, and stress now, in the end, Jesus’ peace will overcome it

            • His peace will sustain us through our difficulties, which may be great but are also momentary (2 Cor. 4:17)

 

  • YOU

    • You can trust by faith in the peace that Jesus’ presence can bring during the pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress that you’re currently experiencing

    • You can recognize that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, admit you are a sinner, repent of your sins, and have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ

    • You can turn to God in prayer with thanksgiving about the circumstances you’re feeling anxious about

 

God’s presence provides peace.

 ​​ ​​​​ 

CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_2_-_Peace_English_Version”

11

 

1st Sunday of Advent

The Star: ​​ A Journey of Hope

(Isaiah 7:14; 9:2; Revelation 7:9, 16-17)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – Hope Bumper video

 

Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent. ​​ Today begins our journey to Christmas. ​​ It’s only four weeks away! ​​ Of course the retail stores have been prepared long before this first Sunday of Advent. ​​ The word advent is a version of a Latin term which means “coming.” ​​ So we use these weeks leading up to Christmas as a chance to look forward to our celebration of the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, the light of world, our Savior. ​​ Advent is a season of great expectation, and I’m glad you’re here with us today as we embark on a journey – actually join in an epic journey that began more than two thousand years ago – and follow the star and discover the light of the world. ​​ It’s a journey of the heart and soul, but it’s also a journey that will realign our expectations and experience of the Christmas season. ​​ And it’s a journey that will explore the gifts of Christmas delivered by and through Christ: ​​ hope, love, joy, and peace. ​​ We will need hope in the storms of life and love that never gives up. ​​ We need fresh joy on our journey and peace no matter what we’re facing or dealing with.

 

We’re going to be focusing on the star as our guiding light. ​​ It guided the Biblical characters to the place where Jesus was and it can guide us to Jesus, the light of the world, even today.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • I have been looking forward to this Christmas season more than in the past couple of years, because of hope!

    • Hope

        • Home

          • I’ve experienced hope at home as Judy and I have continued to deepen our relationship as husband and wife as we move into a new phase of life (almost empty nesters)

          • I’ve also experienced hope at home as I’ve watched our boys develop into fine young men

            • Wade has become more independent

            • Seth is finishing college this year and getting married in June to a wonderful young lady, Emily

            • Levi has matured this past school year and is working more independently on his school work

        • Church

          • I’ve also experienced hope at church

          • There are more people participating in small group Bible studies than in the past couple of years

          • We have vision for the future and faith to move forward

          • God has been challenging us as a congregation and I see Him working powerfully in your lives

          • That brings me great hope!

    • While I’ve been experiencing hope at home and at the church, I realize that not everyone is experiencing hope, especially during the Christmas season

 

  • WE

    • Are you struggling to experience hope right now?

    • There are numerous struggles you may be experiencing today that are stripping you of hope

        • Financial stresses (you want to make Christmas special for your family, but finances are tight)

        • Relational dysfunctions (you’re not looking forward to the family gathering, because of tensions in your family)

        • Memories of loss (perhaps the Christmas season is difficult, because you’re remembering a loved one that has passed away – this may be your first Christmas without that individual)

        • Commercialized expectations (maybe you’re feeling the pressure to keep up with Jones’s)

    • We’ve all been there at some time or another

    • We may be there right now in some form or another

    • We’re not alone

        • Those who were part of the journey toward the first Christmas – Mary, Joseph, an innkeeper, a jealous king, some wise men, common shepherds, angels, and so many more didn’t even understand what was happening all the time

        • Mary and Joseph placed their firstborn son in a manger, because there wasn’t room in the inn

        • Herod wasn’t feeling hopeful when he learned of a king who had been born in Bethlehem

        • The wise men had a long journey to take in order to see Jesus

        • The shepherds were afraid when the angels appeared to them

        • While there were hardships along the journey, most of the characters answered God’s invitation to come and see the arrival of His son, the light of the world and the Savior of all

    • Questions

        • Will you say yes to the journey?

        • Will you peer through the darkness of your life, no matter what that may be, and look for the glimmer of hope?

        • Will you step toward the light of the star even if your vision seems cloudy or muddled?

        • Will you journey toward Bethlehem, drawn by hope for the love, joy, and peace that await?

 

Through this journey of hope God wants us to know that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Jesus brings hope in the dark times of life.

 

Let’s pray

 

How do we follow the star on a journey of hope? ​​ How can we purposefully live this season of anticipation in light of hope? ​​ Let’s look at three key components – acknowledging the darkness around us, embracing the wait, and committing to the journey.

 

  • GOD

    • Acknowledging the Darkness

        • VIDEO – Methanol – fire (1) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZEEuCHdWFA]

          • In the video we saw that a methanol fire is very hard to see in the daylight, but burns a beautiful blue color in the dark

          • In the darkness the flame is visible and gives off light

        • The same is true of stars

          • We aren’t able to see them during the daytime, but at night (as long as the sky is clear) we can see the stars

          • In fact the darker the night, the better we can see the stars

          • If you live in the country as opposed to the city, you will see the stars more clearly, because there are less light

          • When the moon is that tiny sliver instead of a full-moon we are able to see the stars more clearly

          • The darker the setting, the brighter the starlight

          • Just because we can’t see them in the daytime doesn’t mean they aren’t still there

          • This is the wonder of God’s creation and He chose a star to guide the wise men to Bethlehem

        • Throughout the Bible, we see how God uses His own creation to reveal Himself to us

          • Psalm 19:1-4, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. ​​ Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. ​​ There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. ​​ Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world (NIV)

          • Psalm 8:3-4, When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (NIV)

        • Masking the darkness

          • It’s easy for us to mask the darkness that we see in the world around us and in our own hearts, especially during the holidays

          • We allow the holiday glitz to artificially light our lives, but the darkness within us is still there

          • But facing darkness and calling it what it is allows us to see true light

          • Sometimes we have to experience the darkness in order to see the light clearly

            • If you’ve ever heard the testimony of someone who has come out of an addiction, many times you’ll hear the same thing

            • They had to hit rock bottom before they were ready to ​​ acknowledge the darkness within

            • It was only when they acknowledged the darkness that they were able to see the light of hope and kick their addiction

          • There is darkness all around us in our world

            • The recent news stories of Hollywood executives, newscasters, and politicians who are losing their jobs as a result of inappropriate behavior with the opposite sex or with children

            • The shooting that took place in a church in Texas

            • The use of a box truck in New York City to kill individuals

            • The shooting that happened during a concert in Las Vegas

            • We don’t have to look far to see that there is darkness all around us

        • The Israelites were experiencing a dark time also when Jesus showed up

          • There had been 400 years of silence from God between the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament times

          • They were also experiencing Roman rule in Israel

            • They didn’t like having the Romans as their authorities

            • Their belief about the Messiah was that He would come and set them free from Roman rule

            • They were looking for a political savior

          • I’m sure the Israelites felt like God had abandoned them, yet if they remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah they should have been hopeful

          • Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: ​​ The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (NIV)

            • The time was coming when God would be with man in the flesh

            • Immanuel means, “God with us”

          • Isaiah talked about the coming light and the present darkness, and that darkness continued to grow through the centuries

          • Isaiah 9:2, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (NIV)

          • Isaiah was foretelling the future

            • Both of these verses were spoken long before Jesus was born

            • The people of Israel lived in that space between promise and fulfillment

            • They were desperate for a deliverer

        • Application

          • Today we share that common experience of darkness and desperation

            • Every one of us wants to be set free from the darkness we are experiencing

            • Jesus brings hope in the dark times of life.

            • The greatest darkness we all experience is the darkness of sin in our lives

              • We are all born with a desire to sin, a desire to have our own way, to be our own boss, to not submit to anyone else as our authority

              • It is the heart condition of every person

              • Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (NIV)

              • Romans 3:10-12, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. ​​ All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (NIV)

              • The darkness of sin is found in every one of us

              • When we choose to do wrong in our families, school, workplace, or community, there are consequences

              • The same is true with God, who is holy and just

              • Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV)

              • This verse talks about the consequences of our sin, but it also gives us hope

              • God had a plan to deal with the darkness of sin in our lives

              • It was sending Jesus from heaven to earth to die on a cross so we could be purified from the darkness of sin in our lives

              • Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: ​​ While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (NIV)

              • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: ​​ that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (NIV)

              • This was God’s plan and promise, through the prophet Isaiah, fulfilled

              • 1 John 1:5-7, This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: ​​ God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. ​​ If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. ​​ But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (NIV)

          • Perhaps the darkness you need to deal with today is the darkness of sin in your life

            • Nothing can rescue you from the darkness of sin except God

            • Jesus entered your darkness that first Christmas, so you could have hope

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Acknowledge the darkness of sin in my life and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to purify me of my sins.

              • The beginning of the purification process is talking to God and admitting that you are sinner, that you are sorry for your sin, that you believe in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross, and that you choose to be purified

              • Sanctification is the ongoing process of purification where we deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus

              • It’s a lifestyle change that comes through the transforming power of Jesus Christ living within us

              • Repentance is a 180 degree turn from pursuing sin to pursuing Jesus

              • Total sanctification will come when Jesus Christ returns, but we are still in the waiting process

              • We have to learn to embrace the wait

    • Embrace the Wait

        • Questions

          • Who likes waiting?

          • Does anyone like waiting?

          • How many people waited in a line during Black Friday shopping? ​​ (Did anyone enjoy it?)

          • I remember having to wait on Christmas morning to open presents

            • We didn’t have the tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve

            • We were allowed to open our stockings before my parents got up, but we couldn’t open any of the presents under the tree

            • We’ve continued that tradition with our boys – they are allowed to open their stockings before we get up, but nothing under the tree

            • The older I’ve gotten the earlier I’ve been getting up, so they probably won’t have to wait as long this Christmas

          • Waiting

            • Children can’t wait for their Birthday or Christmas morning to arrive

            • Students wait to hear if they’ve been accepted into a college or graduate program

            • Other students wait to find out if they got the part in the school play/musical or made the team

            • Adults wait to hear if they got a job or promotion

            • Parents wait for the birth of their child or children

            • Other couples wait to hear about adopting a child

            • If you go to Chick-fil-A, though, you won’t have to wait very long

        • Israelites

          • The Israelites knew all about the long wait

          • Since Genesis, in the very first book of the Bible, when sin entered the world, we see that God offered the promise of hope

          • Genesis 3:14-15, So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! ​​ You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. ​​ And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NIV)

          • God was talking about Jesus, the source of hope from the very beginning

          • God had a plan of hope from the start

          • But constrained by the time of our world, the waiting seemed like forever

        • Illustration

          • Imagine a farmer standing on the dry dust of a parched field and looking up to the sky. ​​ Years of drought have taken everything from him, and he has lost hope. ​​ But then, in the distance, he hears the rumble of thunder – the promise of rain

          • That is the image John the Baptist gave of himself when people asked if he was the Messiah. ​​ No, he was not, but he was announcing the arrival of the long-awaited One. ​​ He was the herald of hope.

          • John 1:23, “I’m thunder in the desert: ​​ ‘Make the road straight for God!’ ​​ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.” (MSG)

        • Advent is a time of waiting

          • While we struggle with waiting in our culture, there is great benefit in embracing this season as we anticipate the coming of Jesus

          • The waiting reminds us of where our hope is set

          • It allows us the time and focus to hear the distant rumble of thunder, the promise that our hope will be fulfilled

          • God keeps His promises and He has promised to send Jesus a second time

          • As we wait to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we also wait for our true hope to be fulfilled – our complete and total sanctification – the perfecting of our souls

          • The apostle John describes it for us in Revelation 7:9, 16-17

          • Revelation 7:9, 16-17, After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb . . . Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. ​​ The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. ​​ For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. ​​ And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (NIV)

          • We still live in the space between the already and the not yet

            • We have to embrace the waiting just like the Israelites did

            • They were waiting for the arrival of the Messiah the first time

            • We’re waiting for the arrival of the Messiah the second time

            • Hope is what fuels our faith as we wait, because we know that eternity with God will far outweigh what we have experienced here on earth – the darkness that we are currently experiencing, that is stripping us of hope

            • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Therefore do not lose heart. ​​ Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. ​​ For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ​​ So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. ​​ For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV)

            • Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (NIV)

        • Application

          • Will you allow this Advent season to serve as a reminder of the confidence we have as we wait in hope for what we do not yet see?

          • Will you seek the light of the star, no matter how faintly it might first appear to you, and draw hope from its growing light?

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Wait with hope for Jesus’ second coming and for my complete and total sanctification.

        • We normally define waiting as an inactive process, but it can be an active process – we have to commit to the journey

    • Commit to the Journey

        • The concept of waiting throughout the Bible is one of active waiting

          • It is not just sitting around, doing nothing

          • We wait with expectant hearts, but we are constantly moving forward on our journey

        • “Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.” ​​ [Henri J. M. Nouwen, Waiting for God]

          • What an excellent description of Advent!

          • Wait means being active, present in the moment while still anticipating where we are going

          • It not’s easy!

          • It takes strength and courage, but we can receive that from the Lord

          • Psalm 31:24, Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (NIV)

        • So what does that look like in real life?

          • The apostle Peter gives us great words of wisdom that apply to our real lives – he speaks about being holy

          • 1 Peter 1:13-16, Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. ​​ As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. ​​ But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ​​ “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)

          • Hope is about waiting, but that waiting involves a commitment to being present in our journey of obedience

          • Preparing our minds means that we are alert, it involves expectation and active anticipation

          • Being self-controlled is also an active process as we wait

          • Each of us is perhaps at a different place in our journey with God

            • That’s natural and normal

            • Don’t compare with those who are also on the journey, but are at a different place – keep following God’s light

            • Advent is not about finding all the answers or checking all the boxes

            • It’s about preparing

            • You just have to show up and be willing to follow God’s lead

            • He wants to fill you heart with hope and healing as you seek His Son, Jesus

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CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_1_-_Hope_English_Version”

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