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Hope in Christ the King

white hope bauble
 
During the season of Advent, our society begins to accelerate rather rapidly on a countdown till Christmas. Our sermons at church begin to preach the prophecies from the prophets from the Old Testament like Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah. The significance of these prophets is that they all lived 600 to 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem which is recorded in the narrative which is recorded in the books of Matthew and Luke. The accounts from these two New Testament books are often the text which pastor’s use to prepare their sermons for the Christmas services. But this Wednesday in church we will be observing the first Wednesday of Advent. Traditionally, the first candle is known as the prophecy candle, but it can also be called the hope candle. The first candle is also purple in color. The color purple also has long been associated with royalty. These two meanings for a single candle make the meaning of this candle exceptionally meaningful during the time of Advent. The very phrase Advent is Latin for the word coming. During this time, we traditionally prepare ourselves for arrival of Jesus as the baby born in Bethlehem nearly 2,000 years ago. But Advent should also be a time where we prepare ourselves and the world for the second coming of Christ. During this pandemic we have had several moments where events and gatherings can not be planned or expected. But there is one event we can be sure will happen one day. This thing is one event is the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Although, this second coming He will be coming as a King not as a baby. He will come to take His people to their eternal home. As 2nd Corinthians 3:12 says “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold…” During this pandemic and year of uncertainty several of us, myself included have found ourselves in the trap of finding hope and comfort of the things temporary. Let us now take the time to remember the original message of this first Sunday of Advent. The message of hope. It is through Christ that we have a hope. It is a hope that will not fail us. Things in this world are temporary and they will all disappear within a blink of an eye. Instead, turn your trust to Christ and he will sustain us all in the very end. It is because of our faith that gives us Christians such a unique view within the world around us. Because our hope is not of this world. Our hope and trust are in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, remember the words of 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” As Advent progresses, we remember that one day Jesus will return once more. This time not as a baby but as a king and He will take us home in Heaven. This is the coming which our heart and souls long for. The Lord will return to this world like a thief in the night and we must be ready.
 
Prayer: Lord God, Heavenly Father, as we battle with the uncertainties and troubles of this world throughout our life, guide us to remember the hope which we are reminded of during this season of Advent. Let us be comforted in remembering the Word which you gave us. And remember that one day we will be reunited with You. In Your Precious and Holy Name, Amen.   

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Someone’s Coming (Part 3)

The Nativity of Christ-themed wooden Christmas ornament
 
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today… And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” Luke 19:5,8-10
 
This week, we’ve been thinking of company coming, visitors who just showed up without calling or texting us ahead. Suddenly, there they are at our door.  Quick, get ready! So far, we have put on the coffee and brought out the good food. We’ve cleaned the house and found the gifts that were given. Now it’s time for the last choice. Get dressed! Of course, you are dressed but you’ve been busy. Maybe after the visit is an hour or two along you finally notice you never did get time to change. You look and see that you’re wearing the oldest sweatshirt you own. It’s a little late though to bring it up. If you say to your company, “Let me go get changed” you’re going to make them say, “No, no, don’t bother. You look fine.”  Or, worse, they’ll say, “Don’t bother. We really should get going.” But you don’t want them to leave! Everything is going so well, you’re hoping that they will stay.
 
Zacchaeus must have felt the same way. At the end of the meal I’m sure he wanted Jesus to stay with him as long and as he could. I hope that Jesus even stayed overnight, the best night Zacchaeus and his household ever had.
 
We want him to stay the same way in our house. Picture Jesus as the guest who’s come to be with your family. Are you perfect in your dress or house or gifts? None of us are. But that’s not why he came and it’s not why he stays. He is Emmanuel, the God who is with us and he is with us out of grace and mercy. Very soon we are going to be in the season of Advent. We are going to sing that great hymn, “O come O come Emmanuel.” He enriches our homes by his presence that endures with us even when we are far from perfect. But he enriches us by his presence. He is the real gift of this season, Emmanuel the God who is with us.
 
So, I hope company comes to your house at the right time without too much surprise. I hope that you have good warning before they pull in. When they come, you still have those three classics of hosting company: put on the coffee, clean the house, and get dressed. In this Advent season, remember Someone is coming to our homes. He’s not a surprise but as a welcome guest to enrich our homes. God bless you as he comes to be your lasting guest.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you that you come even when we are far from perfect or even presentable. Wash us clean with your forgiveness and remain with us as Emmanuel, the wonderful God who is with us in every season. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Storms

huge wave at daytime
 
 “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.   And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.   And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”   And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.    And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him”  Matthew 8:23-27   

“Why are you afraid?”  Can you imagine if Jesus asked you that question?  I suppose that I could go on for hours with reasons why I’m afraid.  And I’m not even being tossed around on the waves of the sea.

Then again, maybe I am being tossed around on the waves of the sea.  And maybe you are, too.  Life is tumultuous, scary, unpredictable sometimes.  And when you’re in the middle of a storm, it’s hard to think about anything else other than getting out of the storm!

The disciples feared that the storm would destroy them.  And they assumed that since Jesus didn’t immediately wake up and save them, that He didn’t care. 

When we’re in the middle of the storm it sometimes seems like Jesus doesn’t care.  It may seem crazy to you that He doesn’t immediately calm things down.  But where is faith in that?  If we simply expect Jesus to eliminate our problems, our capacity to trust Him through the storms of life will suffer.

Jesus knows – perfectly – when and how our faith needs to be tested and stretched through suffering.  As He pushes the limits of our trust, He grows our faith.  As He shows us that He cares and is always there, we mature.

So, thanks be to God for the storms.  And thanks be to God for the Savior who entered the Storm of sin, death and the devil and defeated them all by His cross and empty tomb.

The time will come when the waters will be perfectly still, always.  The time will come when storms will cease.  I can’t wait for that Day.  But as much as I long for it, I am comforted that while I’m here in the place of storms, I have One who is with me and knows what’s best for me every step of the way.

Lord Jesus, You entered into this world of storms to show that You are more powerful than anything that would harm us.  As we face storms in our own lives, remind us that You are there, and grow our faith that we might always trust You.  In your name, Amen.  

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Someone’s Coming (Part 2)

person holding red and brown gift box infront of Christmas tree inside the room
 
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he turned and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’” Luke 19:5-8

On Monday we talked about visitors coming at night, company you didn’t expect. You have only so much time to get ready and your first thought might be to put the coffee on and get something to eat.  Or, you might choose instead try to clean up. Pick up the house and especially find the gifts. Let’s say that you know who’s coming down the driveway and you realize that they gave gifts the last time they were here. Where is the cutting board? Where is the clock? Is it running? Clean the house and make sure the gifts are out.

Zacchaeus must have also seen his house and his life as a gift. As we read in the text, Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, became very generous with the gifts he planned to give. Jesus’s visit changed everything for Zacchaeus. That night, Zacchaeus saw that everything in his house was already a gift from God. When he gave those gifts away, he understood that those gifts hadn’t changed in nature. Everything he had was a gift already. In giving it to the poor he was simply seeing still as a gift.

Zacchaeus’ generosity was a great act of re-gifting. Re-gifting in the very best way recognizes that this gift isn’t really best for us but would be better used by someone else. Everything we have is already a gift of God. Look around at our homes.  What is here that God hasn’t first given to us? And so, what we do with those gifts simply continues to keep them as his gifts as we share them with others. When we re-give these gifts, we wrap them with the thanks that God takes care of all our needs. His gifts are here every day and, even better, he fills our house with himself. He is still the one who says he must stay in our homes today.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you that everything is a gift from you. Help us to re-gift what you first gave to us.  Let us share the generous nature of Zacchaeus who gave freely to others. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Do Not Be Anxious

woman praying while leaning against brick wall
 
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more valuable than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Matthew 6:25-27

Some of Jesus’ words just cut so quickly to the heart of the matter:  “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Isn’t that the truth?  In fact, there’s a growing body of literature that anxiety can actually subtract from our hours of life on this earth.  I was recently perusing the Harvard Medical School website (impressive, huh?), and I read an article describing how one’s stress/anxiety level is inextricably linked to one’s physical health.

Ouch.  Anxiety has consequences.

But it’s important to realize that the reason for us not to be anxious is not that there isn’t anything to be anxious about.  There’s plenty to be anxious about:  Disease and death, financial problems and family problems, terrorism and violence.  The list goes on and on.

Rather, the reason for us not to be anxious is that we have a God and Savior who has promised to be with us, watch over us, and take care of us.  He feeds the birds.  He’ll feed us.  Not to mention, He forgives us for Christ’s sake and is preparing a place for us in eternity.

Trust God.  He’s trustworthy.

I’ve struggled with my share of anxiety over the years.  I still do.  I think I always will in this life.  It’s part of my fallen, sinful makeup.  But it has helped tremendously when I feel anxiety rising in my chest to be reminded of how my God has always taken care of me throughout my life.  Does He feed me?  Clothe me?  Forgive me?  Watch over me?  Love me?  Teach me?  Care for me?  Show me patience and understanding?  Answer my prayers?  

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

I feel the anxiety lessening already.  I hope you do, too.

Gracious Heavenly Father, sometimes I feel anxious.  I worry about small things and big things.  Forgive me.  Remind me of your love, forgiveness and protection.  Help me to trust You more and more each day.  In the name of Jesus who suffered and died for my sins, Amen. 


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