Passage: Isaiah 9:6 (NLT) 6 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
“Christmas should be a time of renewed hope—not hope in a particular political concept, but Christmas hope; Christian hope; hope in Jesus Christ; hope that, despite our tangled bungling, God will bring order out of chaos.
And Christmas is not Christmas without the message of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is why He was born. This was the message of the first Christmas night: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The Christmas message says that God’s grace is greater than our sin. It says that the sin question was answered at the cross. Christmas says that the cross went as deep as our needs. The cross was the cure—offered, paid for and administered by a loving God in His beloved Son.”
[Billy Graham message – “Christmas – a Time of Renewed Hope”]
Prayer: Let’s spend some time remembering in much hope and thankfulness this wonderful Christmas reality that is alive and at work in our lives through Jesus Christ.
Let’s close with this song, “A Christmas Alleluia” (click here) sung by Chris Tomlin with Lauren Daigle and Leslie Jordan
Passage: Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
“The word ‘hope’ in ordinary English vocabulary is generally distinguished from certainty. We would say, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I hope it happens.’
When you read the word ‘hope’ in the Bible (like in 1 Peter 1:13—‘set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’), hope is not wishful thinking. It’s not ‘I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I hope it happens.’ That’s absolutely not what is meant by Christian hope.
Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a conﬁdence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass.
Hope is a portion or part of faith. Faith and hope, in my mind, are overlapping realities: hope is faith in the future tense. So most of faith is hope.” [John Piper message – “What Is So Important About Christian Hope?”]
Are you discouraged, pessimistic, feel defeated or have given into despair about anything in your life?
Instead, what are the promises (word) of God that you are to turn to and put your hope in instead? Let’s take a moment to remember one promise of God in his word.
Prayer: “God, your word is true and you are faithful to your promises. I put my hope in you!” In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Let’s also worship to this song: “Cornerstone” (click here)by Hillsong (written by: Edward Mote, Eric Liljero, Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan, William Batchelder Bradbury)
The LORD will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air. (Is 51.3)
“In the coming of Jesus to be the savior of the world, God is doing something new and constructive and lasting in our messy human scene, and everyone is invited. This joyful declaration and promise is that of ‘ecstatic praise.’” (P. Tim)
“The people of God, now from all nations, are so richly comforted and loved, it takes nothing less than the heavens, the earth, and the mountains to shout their hurrahs to God.” (R. Ortlund, Isaiah, God Saves Sinners)
“’Joy to the world!’ Anyone for whom this sound is foreign, or who hears in it nothing but weak enthusiasm, has not yet really heard the gospel. For the sake of humankind, Jesus Christ became a human being in a stable in Bethlehem: Rejoice, O Christendom! For sinners, Jesus Christ became a companion of tax collectors and prostitutes: Rejoice, O Christendom! For the condemned, Jesus Christ was condemned to the cross on Golgotha: Rejoice, O Christendom! For all of us, Jesus Christ was resurrected to life: Rejoice, O Christendom! …All over the world today people are asking: Where is the path to joy? The church of Christ answers loudly: Jesus is our joy! (1 Pet. 1:7–9). Joy to the world!” (D. Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger)
Shout for joy, you heavens rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. (Is 49.13)
How did Zion receive such wonderful news? Their response… “But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me’” (v. 14). In other words, “Meh… whatever…” (JIV translation – Jason’s Intergalactic Version). It’s mindboggling how apathetic we can be at times, even when God comes to us with such amazing news of comfort, deliverance, healing, salvation. Our hearts are dead and we just don’t care. People try to convince us that we should be encouraged, but our emotions are like dead weight that can’t be budged. Time passes by without mercy as we wallow in our lethargy, listlessness and despondency.
“Perhaps my own (our own?) habitual torpor might be healed this season; perhaps, at the appearance of the Word and with the faithful assistance of those who love us, this nagging sense of futility and of powerlessness might be replaced with the faith to rise up, the strength to lift our beds, the willingness to walk. And perhaps Isaiah’s words propose as well that the barren desert of human generation will also bloom, and bring to lush fullness the desiccated hearts of humankind. Let us pray that, thereafter, we may become fonts of his love and mercy, that we too may become wells of living water, refreshing those around us…” (S. Cairns, in God With Us)
“The eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a hart,
and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.” (Isa. 35.5-6)
“The mystery of God’s activity in the world is that the tiny signs of faithfulness and love and mercy and hope, the tiny signs enacted by the Christian community, are the pointers to the glory that will come when the Lord takes his power to himself. This is not the way I would have done it; it is not the way you would have done it. No wonder we take offense. You and I would have made it obvious, so that it would have stunned everybody and made argument and questioning irrelevant. But the glory of Lebanon [cf. Is 35.1-2]… is secreted for the time being in the small deeds and the little prayers of the church of God…
‘Behold, your God will come. He will come and save you. Be strong. Fear not. The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing—everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away’ [Is 51.11].
The true ‘glory of Lebanon’ is given by God, and it is hidden, with joy, in the deeds and the prayers of his church. Amen.” (Fleming Rutledge, Advent
Take a moment to lift your voices to the Lord. Worship Him with joy as you sing about all that God has done – (click here)
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49.6)
“’Come, Lord Jesus.’ Church often recite this prayer during the Advent liturgy. But why would we pray for the Lord’s coming when he has already been born among us? This is the paradox of the season: advent is a time of tension between the already and the not yet. While we anticipate the coming of Christ in Bethlehem, we also look forward to his second coming at the end of time. The first advent point to the last…
While we wait for Christ to come in glory, we enter into a sense of expectant hope articulated by the prophet Isaiah… Christian theologians interpret these Scriptures as prophetic of Jesus: he is the Messiah, the one who was promised. But we are also to understand Isaiah in an eschatological sense—his words speak to God’s second advent… Clearly in our fallen world is still yearning for a savior; all things are not as they should be. During Advent we dwell in that space between the promise and fulfillment, praying for the Lord Jesus to ‘come.’” (G. Pennoyer, God With Us)
Waiting and praying for Jesus to come again is a way of life filled with joyful anticipation. While listening to “Joy to the World” (click here), write down prayers to the Lord expressing this joy of advent.
And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength—
he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49.5-6 NIV)
“Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and there is no other. He is God’s appointed ‘light for the nations.’ Every wisdom and philosophy and moral code outside of Christ lies in the deepest, outermost darkness as to salvation. But to enter into the light of Christ is to have your gloom lifted and your confusion replaced with truth and delight. He is your breakthrough to seeing everything in a new light. And his God-appointed mission, to bring the light of God into our natural darkness, will succeed with worldwide impact. Jesus himself said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8.12).” (R. Ortlund, Isaiah, God Saves Sinners)
Listen to this song, Gloria by Josh Garrels (click here) and let’s pray that as we enter into the light of Christ, our gloom would be lifted.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” – Galatians 5:6b (NIV)
Everything we do, we do it in love. That has been the ‘one thing,’ the ‘main thing’ of the whole letter. Everything we do must take place in the reality of putting others above ourselves. It’s this love that continues to shape our calling, it’s this love in Christ that gives us the strength and ability to do what needs to be done so that the gospel is proclaimed in love and Christ is glorified in our churches.
Love will be victorious. Love will overcome. Love will win despite what the outcome may look like, the seemingly futility of the means, or how great the conflict feels.
We rely on the Holy Spirit’s empowering and gifting to express this love more. We do this together. We guard one another in love. In love we stand firm in the gospel for one another. We are courageous for one another. We stay strong, persistent until the very end, building up one another in love. That’s the ‘basics’ providing a prime of place for love in the church.
Today in prayer, let’s commit to loving our churches and campuses ministries again. Let’s ask for the Spirit’s empowering, gifting, and resolve to express this love together even more. Let’s sing to, “I Turn to Christ” (click here) by Matt Redman.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV) – “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.”
With these last two ‘basics’ (BSCS) many commentators believe that these two imperatives, “Be courageous; be strong” echo the language of Psalm 31:24, where precisely the same two verbs are used.
Love theLord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full. So be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord!
“Of course, Paul’s simple and straightforward exhortations make perfect sense to a reader who does not hear the Psalm echo, but those who do hear will understand that strength and courage are rooted in love for God and set in opposition to boasting and arrogance. Authentic strength is grounded in trustful waiting for the Lord…” [R. Hays]
Perhaps the hardest part of love is seeing that it completes the transforming work that it was expressed to do. No matter what, carrying it through to its beautiful outcome. This kind of enduring strength and courage cannot be derived from self, but only from God. We can be strong in love for one another to the very end because we know that God is and will always work victoriously in love.
Let’s use Psalm 31:23-24 as a framework for how we pray today for our churches, campuses, families, and friends. Pray for God’s ‘outcome’ in our lives. And let’s worship to, “Cornerstone”(click here) led by Hillsong.
1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (NIV) – “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) – “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
“‘Stand firm in the faith’…echoes the words with which Paul opened and closed his chapter on the resurrection (15:1–2, 58). The Corinthians are reminded here to ground their identity in the gospel by holding fast to the message that he proclaimed to them…we stand in the proclaimed word, not in our own subjectivity.” [R. Hays]
“The use of ‘in the faith’ in place of ‘the gospel’ is clear evidence that in Paul from the very beginning this noun can refer to the content of what is believed as well as to the activity of trusting itself.” [G. Fee]
We stand in the proclaimed word, not in our own feelings or ideas about how best to live. We stand in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is our starting point, our identity, our ending point…In Christ! In Christ! In Christ!
What a glorious calling, to be in Christ and love like Christ. Let’s thank the Lord for saving us and ‘placing’ us securely in Jesus. Let’s worship to, “Forever”(click here) by Kari Jobe