The Star: A Journey to Christmas
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.”