Christmas Eve

The Star: ​​ A Journey to Christmas

 

INTRODUCTION

Welcome and Merry Christmas! ​​ Tomorrow is the big day, just in case anyone has forgotten that or your children have neglected to remind you since getting out of school for Christmas break. ​​ I’m excited that you’ve joined us this evening as we prepare for one of the greatest days all year. ​​ Tomorrow marks the culmination of a journey we’ve been taking together over the past four weeks. ​​ The four weeks leading up to Christmas are called Advent, which means “coming.” ​​ We’ve been learning about Jesus’ coming that very first Christmas. ​​ We have also been talking about His second coming, which will complete God’s ultimate work of redemption. ​​ We’ve used the star as our guiding light toward Jesus. ​​ This same star guided those wise seekers toward Jesus long ago.

 

How many of you love a good story. ​​ Si Robertson explains in his book, Si-Cology 1: ​​ Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle, he was taught never to lie. ​​ He says that he never lied, but the Robertson’s are good storytellers.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Tradition

        • Growing up, my family had an Advent time after dinner every evening

        • My father made an advent wreath that had a place for a daily candle

        • There were the three purple and one pink candle for each Sunday, but we had white candles for the other days of the week

        • My father has written several daily Advent devotionals

    • Stories

        • Judy’s family has some pretty humorous stories that they’ve told multiple years, which I why I know them now

          • These stories are so funny that we’ll all start laughing and can’t stop

          • Judy’s Grandpa and Grandma Young would come to their house on Christmas Day to celebrate with them

            • One Christmas morning as they were driving down the country road to her house, they saw something on the road

            • Once they arrived, Judy’s Grandma told them that they saw something on the road and thought that Santa had dropped a package

            • The item on the road was a dead squirrel

            • Don’t ask me why that story is so funny, but it is

          • Another Christmas story from Judy’s family was about one of the dogs

            • Marvin was a mutt and he would do some pretty funny things

            • He would walk into a room, pass gas, and then walk out like he was disgusted

            • One Christmas morning, the family got up to find that Marvin had added something special to Judy’s father’s gift – a long, brown, log (poop!)

            • Again, when that story is told we all begin laughing and can’t stop

        • Electronic Rugby game

          • I don’t remember how the story got started, but one year leading up to Christmas my father kept telling me that I was going to get an electronic rugby game

          • This would have been in the 1970’s and some electronic games were already being produced (the old red football and basketball games)

          • I played soccer on an intramural team and baseball in the summer, but I had never played rugby

          • As Christmas morning arrived I opened all my gifts, but never got the electronic rugby game

          • They probably didn’t make an electronic rugby game

          • I wish I could remember what I got that Christmas, but all I remember was what I didn’t get

 

  • WE

    • Family stories

        • Perhaps each person here tonight has family stories that will be told tomorrow

        • It’s stories that have been told multiple times, but they make us laugh until we cry

        • We tell of God’s goodness and healing

    • Hunting and fishing stories

        • Those who hunt and fish can tell some pretty wild stories

        • They talk about the huge buck that got away, as they gather in the evening at the hunting cabin

        • They also tell the big fish stories without having any proof that the story is true

    • Black Friday shopping stories

        • Perhaps some of you ladies have some great stories of success while Black Friday shopping

        • You had your strategy all planned out for who was going to which stores and what they were supposed to get

        • Maybe you were standing in line and were the last person to get a particular item before the store ran out

 

Throughout the world, stories have been the means of preserving history, passing along beliefs and values, inspiring, entertaining, and motivating us. ​​ Stories move us. ​​ Shared stories connect us and link us to each other. ​​ They bring meaning to our lives and help make sense of our experiences. ​​ Good stories are messy, full of conflict, suspenseful and moving. ​​ They are filled with victory and defeat, struggle and triumph, fear and courage, conflict and love. ​​ They draw us into bigger and broader story lines and they make us curious about the storyteller.

 

As we think about stories, I’d like us to imagine that we’re outside, somewhere wild and open, maybe a mountaintop, maybe a sweeping meadow set against a flowing stream or rolling hillside. ​​ It’s a clear night long, long ago. ​​ We’re back at the very beginning. ​​ This is creation, and into the inky darkness above suddenly God is flinging stars into the sky. ​​ Where there was only darkness, now there is gleaming, glittering light.

 

The Creator knows each one of these lights. ​​ He knows which ones we’ll be able to see as human beings. ​​ He knows how long they will last before burning out. ​​ He also knows about one special star.

 

This star would pierce the darkness with a unique purpose. ​​ It would serve as a herald and a celestial marker. ​​ It would signal the birth of Christ, the coming of the long-promised Messiah, come to earth at last to change the course of eternity forever.

 

This star guided wise men. ​​ It lit the night for shepherds. ​​ It signaled the way of Immanuel, God with us. ​​ It announced the arrival of the bright Morning Star whose light shines brightest, calling us to see Him, drawing us to Himself to seek and find Him.

 

God’s story is ongoing. ​​ The Christmas story spans all of history from creation to Jesus born in Bethlehem to us gathered here tonight. ​​ It will continue into the future as we wait for Jesus’ return.

 

Tonight as we complete our journey to Christmas, we will be look at each of the four elements of the story. ​​ These are the four gifts that Jesus brought to us when He came from heaven to earth that Christmas. ​​ We will be lighting each Advent candle on our wreath as we talk about the four elements of hope, love, joy, and peace. ​​ We’ll also light the center candle, which is the Christ candle.

 

  • GOD

    • HOPE

        • We began Advent with a journey of hope

        • Through many years and centuries of history, hope burned for a Savior

          • The Israelites had waited for the Messiah to come

          • God had been silent for 400 years

          • They were anticipating His coming, but they didn’t know when He would arrive

          • I’m sure as they waited there were times of great hope and times when they struggled to understand why God was waiting

        • But hope was fulfilled

          • Christ has come!

          • God’s promise to send a Savior was fulfilled with Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection

          • Jesus is our ongoing source of hope

        • We also live in the future hope of Jesus’ second coming

          • His second coming will complete the story of redemption

          • The story is not over yet

          • When darkness rages and deepens around us, we can hold onto hope that Christ will complete His ultimate work

        • Application

          • Not everyone is currently hopeful

          • You might be feeling like you’re hanging on by the last threads of hope

          • You may be struggling with financial stresses, relational dysfunctions, memories of loss, or commercialized expectations

          • 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)

          • The great news is that Jesus brings hope in the dark times of life

    • LOVE

        • The second week we went on a journey of love

        • This journey also spans eternity, because God is love

        • Love is part of God’s nature – it’s one of His many attributes

          • His love fueled creation

          • Love drove God to make a way to restore the relationship between Him and humanity

          • God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus from heaven to earth (Rom. 5:8)

        • God’s love fuels our relationship with Him – it is through His love in us that we are able to love others as He does

        • We look forward to the future when God’s love story is complete

        • Application

          • We saw on this journey that God has a lasting, conquering, and overflowing love

          • 1 John 4:9-11, 16, This is how God showed his love among us: ​​ He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. ​​ This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ​​ Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another . . . And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

          • We are able to love others because God first loved us

    • JOY

        • Our third journey was a journey of joy

        • Jesus’ birth was a joyful event

        • Luke 2:9-12, An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. ​​ But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. ​​ I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. ​​ Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. ​​ This will be a sign to you: ​​ You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

        • The good news of great joy was that Jesus, the Savior of the world, was born

        • The joy for us today is that the same message of good news is for us today – Jesus offers His salvation to us

        • While we still live in a world where joy and pain coexist, God’s promise is that our joy will be made complete in the future when Jesus comes again

        • Application

          • You may not be experiencing joy today

          • Instead you are experiencing fear (health, finances, relationships, employment, education, spiritual, government, society, etc.)

          • Those concerns may be stripping you of joy – they may be consuming your waking hours and keeping you awake at night

          • Through Jesus Christ, we can have joy in life’s journey

          • Peter told us our walk of faith with Jesus brings us a sense of joy

          • 1 Peter 1:8-9, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

    • PEACE

        • We looked at the journey of peace this morning

        • Peace can be so elusive in our world, our families, and our own minds

        • Yet we see God’s peace throughout the story line of eternity

        • Jesus came in the past as the Prince of Peace – that is what we’re celebrating at Christmas

        • Jesus’ peace remains today through the gift of the Holy Spirit

        • When Jesus returns the second time, we will experience perfect and complete peace – ultimate peace for the world

        • Application

          • Peace may be alluding you today because of pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress

          • You may appear to be at peace outwardly, but inwardly you are a mess

          • Jesus’ life was filled with hardship

          • He knew that His disciples and us would experience hardship also

          • So, He gave them and us 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.

          • 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’ presence provides peace

 

  • YOU

    • Throughout this journey to Christmas we have learned some very important things about Jesus:

        • Our greatest HOPE in the darkest times of life comes from having a relationship with Jesus

          • 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.

        • The greatest LOVE we’ll ever feel is the love Jesus expressed when He died on the cross to take our punishment for sin

          • John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

        • The greatest JOY we’ll every experience comes from knowing that Jesus willingly came to save us from our sins

          • John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

        • We can have PEACE with God by believing in Jesus by faith

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

    • Relationship with Jesus

        • Before we can have a relationship with Jesus, we have to recognize and admit our need (I am a sinner)

          • Everyone is born with a desire to have their own way

          • We reject God and His authority in our lives

          • Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned

          • Romans 6:23 tells us that there is a consequence for rejecting God and it is to be separated from Him

        • We have to be willing to reject or turn from sin (repent)

        • We must believe that Jesus died for us on the cross and came alive again in three days

        • Through prayer, we have to invite Jesus Christ to come in and control our lives through the Holy Spirit

    • Perhaps you are ready to experience the hope, love, joy, and peace that is a result of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ

        • Repeat this prayer after me

        • Dear God, I have been rejecting You and Your authority in my life. ​​ I have chosen sin over a relationship with you. ​​ I am ready and willing to reject sin, turn away from it, and begin to follow You. ​​ I believe that Jesus died, was buried, and came alive again to take my punishment for sin. ​​ I choose to be at peace with You today and to be saved from my sins. ​​ I accept Your eternal life. ​​ In Jesus’ name. ​​ Amen.

​​ 

CONCLUSION

We have lit all of the Advent candles. ​​ We have completed the journey to Christmas. ​​ It’s time for us to let our light shine. ​​ As a visual representation of that, Pastor Marc Webb and our Elder Laurin Fleming will be lighting their candles from the Christ candle in the Advent wreath. ​​ They will be coming down the center aisle and lighting the first person’s candle. ​​ That first person will then allow the next person in the row to light their candle. ​​ Continue to pass the light down the aisle until all of the candles have been lit. ​​ Once all of the candles are lit, we will close our service by singing “Silent Night.”

8

 

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

 

3rd Sunday of Advent

The Star: ​​ A Journey of Joy

(Luke 2:8-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – Joy Bumper video

 

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and we’re glad you’re here journeying with us through this season. ​​ We’ve been spending the last couple of Sundays talking about Advent and how it is a season of preparation and expectation. ​​ We’ve already learned about the journey of hope and love.

 

Our guiding symbol through the season is the star. ​​ Just as that Star of Bethlehem drew the wise men toward the Savior thousands of years ago, the star guides our focus on a spiritual journey of hope, love, joy, and peace that all connect us to the Morning Star, the light of the world, Jesus.

 

As we continue to follow the star toward Christmas, it leads us today to focus on the journey of joy. ​​ Joy can be the fuel that brightens our journey, and it is a fascinating concept. ​​ Joy is often misunderstood. ​​ It is often confused with happiness. ​​ And it regularly shows up in situations where it may be least expected.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Birth of our children

        • I remember with the birth of all three of our boys that while Judy was experiencing labor pains, there was extreme joy that followed as soon as they were born

        • At least for a short period of time, after giving birth, Judy didn’t notice the pain her body was experiencing

        • With Seth’s birth, she was told for the last two months of the pregnancy that she couldn’t have the baby yet

          • She wasn’t able to mentally prepare for his delivery like she had done for Wade’s delivery

          • Then one day, they told her she could have the baby

          • That delivery was probably the most difficult of the three

        • While I didn’t experience labor pains, I was filled with joy and wept at the birth of all three of our boys

    • Being laid-off

        • While working at the headquarters of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) in Missouri, I was caught up in one of the layoffs that took place

        • There had been financial struggles for many ministries that year and CEF was not exempt

        • The night before the layoffs were announced, I remember thinking that they would never lay me off, because of how much I did and how much I knew

          • It was that night that God told me I was one of the ones who would be laid off

          • So, I went to work the next day anticipating that I would not a job by the end of the day

        • There was definitely fear associated with being laid off

          • I had a wife and three boys to take care of

          • We had a beautiful home and a mortgage to pay each month

          • We had two vehicles with monthly insurance payments

          • I had no idea where I would get a job

          • Yet, the next day when the Vice President of USA Ministries came into my office and explained that I was being laid off, I was filled with joy

          • As he prayed for me, I remember raising my hands (under my desk) and thanking God for showing me that it was time for me to leave CEF and pursue other opportunities

          • I had some growing to do and that experience was the catalyst that started that growth, both personally and spiritually

 

  • WE

    • What fears are you facing right now?

        • Health concerns?

        • Financial concerns?

        • Relational concerns?

        • Employment concerns?

        • Educational concerns?

        • Spiritual concerns?

        • Governmental concerns?

        • Societal concerns?

        • The list could go on!

    • Are those concerns stripping you of joy?

        • Are those concerns consuming every waking moment?

        • Are they keeping you awake at night?

        • Are you struggling to find joy in the difficult situation?

 

Through this journey of joy, today, God wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – We can have joy in life’s journey.

 

Let’s pray

 

As we look at the journey of joy today, we’ll see that joy and pain co-exist, that joy connects us with others, and that our response to joy should be worship.

 

  • GOD (Luke 2:8-20)

    • Joy and Pain (vv. 8-14)

        • Sometimes it’s easier to find joy in our circumstances when we stop focusing on them and begin to focus on the needs of others

          • In America, we are blessed in so many ways

          • We have plenty of food at our fingertips and clean drinking water

          • Most everyone has a safe place to live

          • We have multiple educational opportunities for our children

          • We have a governmental system that provides certain freedoms

          • We have our own toothbrush and toothpaste

          • We have multiple versions of the Bible and many of us have multiple copies of the Bible

          • Yet, there are individuals around the world who have so much less than we have and find joy in it

          • Operation Christmas Child is an organization that provides boxes filled with items we take for granted, but that children around the world cherish and find great joy in

          • Show VIDEO – LoveGrowsinUkraine [https://video.samaritanspurse.org/love-grows-in-ukraine/]

            • I just love the children’s faces with those huge smiles on them

            • Their faces say it all – they are filled with joy!

            • Even though they live a life that we would consider hard or difficult, they find joy in the simple things

          • As we think about joy and pain or joy and fear, I’m reminded of the shepherds the night Jesus was born

        • Shepherds

          • Read Luke 2:8-14

          • The shepherds were a strong, ruddy group

            • They didn’t lead easy lives

            • They were considered ceremonially unclean because of their work and therefore weren’t able to worship at the Temple

            • They continually had to guard their flocks against wild animals

              • We’re reminded of David, the shepherd boy, who killed Goliath

              • When he came before King Saul to offer his services against Goliath, he told the King that he had killed the lion and bear to protect his father’s flocks

            • They also laid in the opening to the sheep pen throughout the night and became the “door” to protect the sheep from thieves

            • The shepherds had their fears and pains, but I’m sure they experienced joy also

          • The angels appearance brought fear

            • While these shepherds were a hardy bunch, the appearance of an angel in the dead of night terrified them

            • They didn’t know what to think about what they were seeing

            • The angel and his group came in peace with the world’s greatest birth announcement, but first he had to help the shepherds get over their fear

              • He calms their fears by telling them not to be afraid

              • They weren’t the first ones to hear those words from an angel

              • Mary and Joseph also heard those same words when they each had their own individual meeting with an angel

            • Once the shepherd’s fear was taken care of, they were ready to hear the angel’s message

          • The angels message would bring joy

            • The angel had good news that would bring great joy to all of humanity

            • There was a baby that was born in Bethlehem that night

            • It wasn’t just any baby, but it was Christ the Lord!

            • The angel gave the shepherds specific information to identify the baby they were to look for (the baby would be wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger – a feeding trough for animals)

            • Before the angel left he was joined with a choir of angels, praising God

        • Application

          • It’s a strange thing about joy – it seems the natural reaction for most of us is to think joy could only come when pain is removed

            • But the truth is, in our fallen world, joy and pain exist side by side

            • Our lives are a constant balance of joy and pain as we walk through the experiences of life

            • In fact, it is often the pain or struggle that magnifies the power of joy

            • And it’s here in this dichotomy that the message of the angel is for us as well: ​​ Do not be afraid!

          • The struggles you’re going through – health, finances, relationships, school, employment, society, government, etc. – those are the exact places where the words of the angel can penetrate the most deeply and powerfully

            • The angel’s message is for you!

            • There is good news of great joy

            • James writes about joy in trials and makes a pretty astounding statement

            • James 1:2-4, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. ​​ Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

              • Can James really mean that?

              • It’s not a “fake it ‘til you make it” idea

              • It’s understanding that through our trials we can grow and become mature in our faith as we seek God

              • As we walk in relationship with God, we can grow to experience a sense of joy that comes from understanding there is more than the pain we’re currently facing

            • We can have joy in life’s journey

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Not be afraid of the difficult things I’m currently going through and remember that I can have joy in the middle of it with God’s help.

        • The shepherds experienced joy and fear co-existing, but they also realized that joy brings connection with others

    • Joy and Connection (vv. 15-19)

        • Thinking back about the video from Operation Christmas Child, did you notice that they bring all the children together

          • The children are experiencing the joy of receiving their gift with other children who are also receiving a gift

          • It’s a time of building community and togetherness

          • They are also hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they gather together

          • In Ukraine, the children continue to gather together to learn how to read

          • The joy each child experiences is done in connection with other children – they experience joy together

        • Read Luke 2:15-19

        • The shepherds were experiencing the joy of Jesus’ birth together

          • Scripture doesn’t tell us how many shepherds were together that evening, but it was more than one

          • They had experienced a heavenly choir and the incredible news that the Messiah had been born

          • This was who Israel was waiting for!

          • As the shepherds were processing everything they had just seen and heard, they decided to go and see what had happened

          • So, they hurried off into town and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby – just like the angel had said

          • The shepherds didn’t just keep this incredible news to themselves

        • The shepherds connected with others in Bethlehem after seeing Jesus

          • They began to spread the word concerning what they had been told about Jesus

          • He is the Savior, He is Christ the Lord

            • Those were two important terms for the Israelites

            • They were looking for a Savior from Roman rule

            • Christ was even more important for them

            • Christ can be translated Messiah

              • In Greek it was “The Christ”

              • In Hebrew it was “the Messiah”

              • Both mean “the Anointed One”

            • John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

            • What do we need to be saved from?

              • The Israelites thought they needed to be saved from Roman rule

              • We may be feeling like we need to be saved from the difficult circumstances we’re currently in (health, finances, school, employment, relationships, government, society, etc.)

              • In many cases we need to be saved from those things, but there is a greater concern we need to be saved from – the darkness of sin in our lives

                • Sin is an age-old problem that every generation and every individual has been enslaved to since the fall of Adam and Eve

                • Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

                • We are born with a desire to have our own way

                • It is not a condition that only certain people struggle with – it’s a condition that all humanity struggles with

                • Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

                • God knew from the beginning of time that we would reject Him and go our own way – we would choose to be separated from Him

                • That is what we earn or deserve for our sin – ​​ for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

                • Since God knew we would choose to reject Him, He already had a plan in place to deal with the darkness of sin in our lives

                • He was waiting for just the right time

                  • Romans 5:6, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

                  • Galatians 4:4-7, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive full rights of sons. ​​ Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” ​​ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

                • God’s plan was to send Jesus from heaven to earth, grow up to be a man, live a perfect life, die on a cross to take our punishment for sin, be buried, and come alive again on the third day, conquering sin and death

                • Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that Jesus fulfilled God’s plan that was prophesied by Old Testament prophets – He died, was buried, and came alive again in three days

              • Romans 10:9-10, 13, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ​​ For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved . . . for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

                • You have to admit that you are enslaved to sin

                • You have to be willing to turn from your sin (Repent)

                • You have to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus died, was buried, and came alive again to save you from your sin

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus, confess that with my mouth, and be saved from the darkness of sin in my life.

              • When you make that decision to be saved from your sins, you are connected with millions of other believers around the world

              • The good news of great joy wasn’t just for the shepherds, the Israelites, Americans, or all Christians

              • The good news is for the whole world (everyone), regardless of borders, governments, nationalities, races, or socio-economic levels

          • The shepherds connected with those in Bethlehem and shared the good news about Jesus

        • The response of those they told was amazement!

        • There is one more aspect of joy that we need to investigate

    • Joy and Worship (v. 20)

        • Questions

          • What is our response to joy?

          • What do we do when joy interrupts our everyday lives and sets up camp alongside our fears and pain?

          • How do we live in the balance of joy and pain/fear until Jesus comes again?

          • How do we foster and experience this joy that is offered to us?

        • Feelings about joy

          • Sometimes it’s easy to embrace joy

          • Sometimes our struggles and hurts are so overwhelming that we are trapped and bound by our fear

          • Joy can feel so far away, so distant, maybe even impossible

        • The Bible shows us that the appropriate response to joy is always worship

          • It is even possible that worship can jump-start joy as we fix our eyes on God and His greater reality and plan rather than on our immediate problems or the fears we are facing at the moment

          • In the Christmas story we see the response to joy from three different groups

            • The angels, Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

            • The shepherds, The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

            • The wise men, When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. ​​ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. ​​ Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11)

          • All of creation rejoices and worships the Lord

            • Psalm 96:11-13, Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. ​​ Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.

            • Isaiah 55:12, You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

        • Application

          • We can experience the same kind of joy that causes us to worship this Advent season

            • Peter told us our walk of faith in Jesus brings us a sense of joy

            • 1 Peter 1:8-9, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

            • When we change our focus from the fear and pain we are currently experiencing and focus on eternity, we begin to realize that what we going through may not be that bad – it gives us perspective

            • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, 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.

          • We have a choice

            • We can wallow in self-pity, fear, and pain

            • Or, we can change our perspective and focus, by worshiping God in the fear and pain

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Focus on the unseen by worshiping God in the middle of my fear and pain as a way to jump-start joy in my life.

 

  • YOU

    • Not experiencing joy in your life

        • The brokenness of our fallen world stands at odds with Christ’s joy

        • We straddle the tension between our physical and spiritual realities

        • While we talk about the angels, shepherds, and wise men worshiping God, because of Jesus’ birth, it may be a very difficult and lonely time for many of us

        • What can we do when we find ourselves in that position?

          • First, take the time to connect with others – joy can be contagious (this room is a great place to start if you need to find someone to listen, to pray, and to worship)

          • Second, take time and make a choice to be purposefully thankful (gratitude has a way of reminding us of joy and the reasons we have to rejoice even in the midst of pain – even make a list so you can refer back to it when you’re experiencing fear and pain)

          • Third, let’s worship God for who He is! (we can worship God for who He is, because His eternal love and faithfulness never change and His goodness and mercy never run out)

    • Experiencing joy in your life

        • Make yourself available for those who are struggling this Christmas season

        • Practical ways

          • We will be taking up a love offering during the closing song this morning for a family in the church who is struggling financially

          • There are many individuals within our church and even outside our church who are lonely and would welcome a visit (we can recommend individuals to you)

          • There are individuals who just need someone to pray with them and encourage them

 ​​ ​​​​ 

CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_4_-_Joy_English_Version”

11

 

2nd Sunday of Advent

The Star: ​​ A Journey of Love

(1 John 4:7-21)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – Love Bumper video

 

Welcome to the second Sunday of Advent. ​​ I hope you have been rejoicing in this Advent season. ​​ Last week we talked about the word advent, which is a version of a Latin term which means “coming.” ​​ And so we use these weeks leading up to Christmas as a chance to look forward with great expectation to the coming of Christ as we embark on a journey of hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

While the star is only mentioned briefly in the Biblical texts concerning Jesus’ birth, it was a star that led people to Jesus, just as the star leads us to Jesus this Advent season.

 

So together we continue to look for the light as we follow the star on this journey of love. ​​ The star signals the brightest love, the love that never gives up, the love that conquered sin and death, the love that surrounds us daily and fills us eternally. ​​ Perfect love. ​​ God’s love embodied.

 

How do we understand love?

 

BODY

  • ME

    • First pet

        • After college, Judy and I moved to Florida

        • While we were there we took in a kitten

        • Kittens are cute, but cats are not always cute

        • We had this cat for about a year

        • It wouldn’t allow us to keep our bedroom door shut at night, because it wanted to be able to come and go throughout the night

        • It’s morning ritual was to jump up on the bed, put its rear end in my face and knead my bladder with its front paws

          • Needless to say, after being asleep all night, my bladder was full

          • It was this cats way of getting me out of bed, so I would feed it

        • This cat did some other irritating things while we had it, but the day we had to take it to a shelter was extremely difficult

          • We were moving to a new apartment in an adult community and they did not allow us to have any pets (except fish)

          • Judy stayed in the car while I took our cat into the shelter

          • I was trying to be strong, but I broke down and cried as I signed the paperwork and handed our cat over

          • While the cat did some irritating things, we still loved it

    • Other pets

        • We had a dog when we lived in Ohio

          • When we knew we were moving to Missouri, we tried to find a loving home for Socks, but weren’t successful

          • We didn’t want to take him to the pound

          • Several months before we moved, he was hit by a minivan and killed

          • I remember Wade’s words that day as we sat in the living room talking about Socks, he said, “I wasn’t ready for Socks to die!”

          • We weren’t ready for Socks to die either

          • We loved him and enjoyed his company even though he did some crazy things that would get on our nerves (like bringing a dead animal up from the ditch and then rolling in them)

        • We had a cat when we lived in Missouri

        • We had turtles in California

        • We have a dog and two cats now

          • We love Fester, CBS (Clyde, Barney, Skittles), and BTCP (Butterball, Tinkerbell, Cinderella, Precious)

          • I’m not looking forward to the day when they are no longer with us, even though I was not in favor of taking in the two cats

          • They have grown on me

 

  • WE

    • Do you know how much Americans spent on their pets in 2016?

        • $60 billion [Michelle Castillo, “Americans Will Spend More Than $60 Billion on Their Pets This Year,” NBCNews.com, July 12, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/americans-will-spend-more-60-billion-their-pets-year-n390181]

        • Why would we do that?

          • We walk them, clean up after them, vacuum up the hair, take allergy pills, clean the tank, apologize to the neighbors, and much more

          • We love them, so we spend our hard-earned money and time caring for them

          • It’s not because of anything they’ve done for us, but simply because we love them

    • How many of you can relate?

        • Have you or are you going to buy your pet a Christmas gift?

        • Is there anything you wouldn’t do to take care of your pet?

          • How many of you have taken your pet to the vet for a dental visit or some kind of surgery?

          • Who has or is currently giving their pet shots for diabetes or medication for some other health concern

        • We do all of that out of love

        • Please don’t think that I’m trying to compare God’s love for you with your love for your pet

        • God’s love is far greater than the love we lavish on our pets

    • Thinking about our love for our pets starts us down the road to think about God’s love for us

        • How do you perceive God’s love for you?

        • Do you feel you need to earn it?

        • Do you wonder if God’s love is meant for you?

        • Do you see the overflow of God’s love in your own life toward others?

 

Through this journey of love, today, God wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – We love because He first loved us.

 

Let’s pray

 

As we look at the journey of love today, we’ll see that God’s love is a lasting, conquering, and overflowing love.

 

  • GOD (1 John 4:7-21)

    • Lasting Love [love that never gives up] (vv. 7-8, 16b-18)

        • Read 1 John 4:7-8, 16b-18

        • The key phrase we find in these two sets of verses is “God is love”

          • This is one of His many attributes

          • His love has no beginning or ending – no limits

          • His love desires our good and never desires harm or evil

          • He wants our love in return

          • Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ​​ “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

            • The love that the prophet Jeremiah is describing here is one that never ends

            • God loved us before we were even created

            • He continues to love us, without limits

            • He loves us even when we don’t love Him, even when we don’t desire to be in a relationship with Him

            • This is the love God the Father has for His creation – an unending, unlimited love

            • God doesn’t just love us with words, but He loves us with actions, as well

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

            • We’re going to learn more about that when we talk about the second point, conquering love

        • God’s love demonstrated at Jesus’ birth

          • We often talk about Christmas as the time “when love came down.”

          • We say God’s love entered the world as a baby

          • All of that is true, but God’s love didn’t begin at Jesus’ birth

          • His love has always been and will always be

          • It was manifested on earth during the creation of the world

          • The history of our world, the story of the Bible, is a love story from the first day of creation

          • It’s the story of God’s love for His people and His plan of redemption to bring us back into relationship with Him

          • David expresses in Psalm 139 these truths: ​​ God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present. ​​ God knows us, God is with us, and his greatest gift is to allow us to know him

        • God’s love is expressed through the fulfillment of His plan in Jesus Christ

          • Paul explains this to the Ephesian believers

          • Ephesians 1:4-8, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. ​​ In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. ​​ In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

          • God’s love does not depend on us

          • It’s not something we have to earn or perform for to maintain

          • It starts with God, not us – He is the One who initiated a relationship with us – He pursues us

          • God is love

          • It’s His nature and character – it’s who He is

          • His love for us was there from the beginning of time and will continue throughout eternity

        • God’s love is not only a lasting love, but it’s also a conquering love

    • Conquering Love [love that conquered sin and death] (vv. 9-10, 13-16a)

        • Questions

          • Do you ever have a hard time loving God?

          • Do you ever have a hard time accepting His love for you?

          • Do you ever doubt that His love is enough to cover all the pain, hurt, selfishness, and evil of our world?

          • Do you question whether or not His love is enough to cover the pain or hurt in your own heart?

        • God’s love is different than human love

          • The love of a father, mother, spouse, ex-spouse, friend, or enemy is not a perfect love

            • They can and will let you down, hurt you, abuse you, twist the concept of love to inflict damage or pain or heartache or to manipulate you

            • Those betrayals of love can seem hard to heal from or let go of

          • God loves you unconditionally

            • It’s not based on anything you’ve done or have to do

            • It’s not a limited amount of love for a certain period of time

            • God loves you purely, perfectly, wholly, and lavishly

            • He pours love out on us – no matter how unlovable or unworthy we may feel

            • God’s love is more vast and perfect than we can ever fully and completely understand with our human intellect

            • Ephesians 3:17-19, And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

          • God’s unconditional love was expressed for us through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection

        • Read 1 John 4:9-10, 13-16a

        • God’s plan through Jesus

          • God showed His love among us by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins

            • We are all born with a desire to have our own way

            • Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

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

              • God gave us a will and freedom of choice

              • When we choose sin it results in separation from God – a gap between God and us

              • Isaiah 59:2, But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.

              • Some of us chose avenues that do not bridge the gap, such as good works, religion, philosophy, morality, and many other things

            • There is only one way to bridge the gap that our sin has created between us and God

              • It is Jesus Christ!

              • This was who the Israelites were waiting for, but many of them missed Him, because He did not fit their preconceived ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to be like

              • God became man through the birth of Jesus Christ

              • God’s love was manifested on earth through Jesus

              • 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.

              • 1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.

          • Acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God

            • This simple fact is what separates true Christianity from the false religions of the world

              • When asked who they believe Jesus was and what He came to earth to do, their answers will inevitably avoid recognizing Jesus’ divinity

              • He was a good teacher

              • He was a another prophet from God

              • He was just a man

            • When we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, then God lives in us – we have a relationship with Him

            • John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

              • Admit your need (I am a sinner)

              • Be willing to turn from your sins (Repent)

              • Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave

              • Through prayer, invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit (Receive God’s eternal life)

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, believe that He died for me on the cross and rose from the grave, and receive His eternal life.

        • As followers of Jesus Christ we have this promise from God, written in Paul’s letter to the Romans

          • Romans 8:38-39, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

            • That’s an incredible promise from God

            • Our feelings can deceive us

              • When we’re going through difficult times, we may feel like God isn’t there or that He doesn’t care

              • When a financial crisis hits we may feel abandoned by God and alone

              • When God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we wanted Him to, we can feel like God doesn’t love us

              • When we see widows, orphans, and the poor living ​​ all around us or poverty and the ravages of war in other parts of the world, we can sometimes wonder why a loving God would allow those kinds of things to happen

              • The reality is that our loving God is in the middle of all of those situations (he is all-knowing, present everywhere, and sovereign)

            • Our feelings do not change the truths of God’s Word or His character

            • As followers of Jesus Christ we can know with confidence that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (we can claim that promise for ourselves today)

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Claim God’s promise that nothing will be able to separate me from His love

        • God’s love that conquered sin and death has been around forever and through the Holy Spirit it lives in us and overflows to others

    • Overflowing Love [love that overflows to others on our life’s journey] (vv. 11-12, 19-21)

        • Questions

          • Does anyone have company coming this Christmas? (Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles?)

          • While Christmas is a wonderful time to be together, let me ask you this question, how many of us will be sick of our relatives or guests after the third day of being together all the time?

          • Some of us may be feeling that way about your spouse and/or children

          • We can’t wait for the holidays to be done, and the Christmas break from school to end, so we can have some peace and quiet

        • It’s the very nature of God’s unending and unlimited love that it cannot be contained

          • God doesn’t want it to be contained

          • The Bible tells us to love others, even the people who seem unlovable

          • Sometimes that’s easy, and sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world

          • Expressing God’s love to others is not something we can do on our own

          • It only happens when we have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ

          • When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, then the Holy Spirit immediately comes to dwell within us

          • He gives us the power to love everyone as God loves us

          • 1 Peter 1:22-23, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. ​​ For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

          • That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it shifts our focus from trying hard to love others on our own, to experiencing the depth of God’s love in a way that allows it to overflow in our life to the people around us

        • Read 1 John 4:11-12, 19-21

          • We see in verses 11-12 that we should be willing to love others, because God loved us and sent Jesus to take our punishment for sin

          • In verse 19, John changes from saying that we ought to love to the fact that we do love, because God loved us first

          • John tells us that it is impossible for us to love God if we do not love other people

          • In verse 21 John gives us a command from Jesus, Whoever loves God must also love his brother

          • We love because He first loved us

        • Application

          • God’s love is truly the whole reason we celebrate this season

          • The journey of love is not simply about words or even the feelings of acceptance – it is also a journey of action and truth

          • The gift of God’s Son that we celebrate was God putting love into action through Jesus

          • His love is an overwhelming love that calls and moves us to similar action

          • 1 John 3:16, This is how we know what love is: ​​ Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. ​​ And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

          • Advent and Christmas can be an easy season to put this similar love into practice

          • It can also be a difficult season to practice God’s love overflowing through us

          • As you gather to celebrate Christ’s birth this year, will you allow His love to penetrate and overflow your heart as you abide with the source of all love?

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Be willing to allow God’s love to overflow into the lives of family members, friends, and coworkers.

 ​​ ​​​​ 

CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_3_-_Love_English_Version”

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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

 ​​​​ 

CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Advent_1_-_Hope_English_Version”

11