Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 2)

3 Wise Men and a Baby

 
The FBC Children’s Choir and guests present a musical  play about events surrounding the birth of Jesus. 
 

 

Cast

(In Order of Appearance)
 
FBC Children’s Choir & guests
 
Soloists:
Helen Estelle, Grace Logan, Kaitlyn Giddings, Bella Dailey, Lily Dailey, Nora Hamilton, Dylan Bunner, Jacob Hamilton, Aubrey Whitaker, Emma Durham, Jonah Kinnaird, Caleb Kinnaird, & Danny Hurst
 
Narrator : Haylee Brown
 
Ranger Shawn : Shawn Harter
Angel #1 : Grace Logan
Kid #1 & Kid #2 : Maxwell Richardson & Josiah Plumhoff
Inn Keeper : Caden Upchurch
Inn Keeper’s Wife : Kaitlyn Giddings
Joseph : Dylan Bunner
Mary : Nora Hamilton
Animals : Addy Durham, Brenna Evans, Lucy Kinnaird & Anna Plumhoff
Shepherd #1 : Jacob Hamilton
Shepherd #2 : Aubrey Whitaker
Shepherd #3 : Emma Durham
Multitude of Angels : Willow & Alana Ingalls, Helen Estelle, Bella & Lily Dailey
Gaspar : Jonah Kinnaird
Melchior : Caleb Kinnaird
Binky : Danny Hurst
 
 

Read more...

Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 1)

“Jesus is Hope!”

Luke 2:1-7, NASB

Christmas is the proclamation of the coming of the Living Word, God’s one and only Son Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, the divine herald of God’s Gospel, and the Eternal King of God’s Everlasting Kingdom. 2,019 years ago something happened that changed not only time as we know it, but shifted the hope of the nations for all time. What happened was that the most influential person in history was born and the Bible records it from first-hand witness accounts.

Allow me to read a selection of the Bible’s account of the Christmas Story. From Luke 2:1-7.

Does listening to this familiar story thrill you with the hope of the Christmas Story or weary you with the burden of the Christmas Season?

For the weary and the heavy-burdened, it is my privilege to teach you about the hope that Jesus Christ came to give the world. He did so in such a dramatic fashion that time itself started over at 0. All dates before this event are called B.C. (before Christ) and all dates after are called A.D. (anno domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”). We live in a season of Advent Celebration and Anticipation! Jesus has come and Jesus is coming! All time points back to and leads to these dual truths of Jesus’ 1st & 2nd comings. We celebrate His first coming as we hope for His return!
 

Why do I mention time? Because time is important and in fact I believe a right view of time is so important that a proper understanding of the Christmas story “in time” is essential to learning how to live with hope in our everyday “in real time” lives. I will teach you what I mean by this and then apply with 3 practical applications that will start helping you live with the hope God intends for you to live your everyday lives in light of the Christmas Story.

 

The key to understanding the hope of the Christmas story lies in the fact that it is a real story in real time. Listen to Luke 2:1-2, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” This same key is highlighted in Matthew 1’s “Genealogy of Jesus” summarized in Matthew 1:17, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”

 

What am I talking about and why is this important?  Both Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts of the Christmas story start with time markers. Luke’s from a Gentile historian’s perspective (the historical witness of rulers and their activities) and Matthew’s from Israel’s religious perspective (by genealogy). But both serve the same purpose: to put the Christmas story “in time”! This is important because the promise of God for the Christmas miracle, the coming of Jesus, was foretold many times over the course of hundreds of years by many prophets of God. God gave His people a promise so that they wouldn’t despair. Faith and Hope are intertwined in time!  

 

Listen for the key to living with hope in Isaiah 40:30-31: “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

 

I emphasize the words, “yet those who wait on for the Lord,” but this time hear those words from the NIV, as the key word shifts to illuminate the depth of the original Hebrew word that the Prophet Isaiah used to make the point: “But those who hope in the LORD…”. And from Young’s Literal Translation, “But those expecting Jehovah…” All these translations are correct, none more than another because the Hebrew word carries all of these meanings: to wait on; to hope in; and to expect.”[1] There is a deep truth about the biblical concept of hope (found in OT and NT) that I want you to understand. Listen to this definition of biblical hope:

 

In the Gospels, the theological concept of hope is expressed in terms of waiting (προσδέχομαι, prosdechomai) for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43). In the Letters, hope is directly related to and grows out of faith in God. While faith takes God at his word, believing that he will do as he has promised, hope is the anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises (Rom 4:18–21; Heb 6:11–18). Hope originates with God (Rom 15:13), is based on his calling (Eph 1:18; 4:4), and is facilitated by Scripture (Rom 15:4). Specific objects of hope include the future resurrection (Acts 23:6; Rom 8:20–24); the Parousia (Titus 2:13; 1 John 3:2–3); and eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7). Hope’s opposite is expressed in terms of unbelief (Heb 3:6–12), grief or despair (1 Thess 4:13), and shame or disappointment (Rom 5:5; Phil 1:20).[2]

 

Isaiah wrote 700 years before the Christmas miracle of the incarnation, the coming of Messiah, the great rescue of God for His people and all the people of all nations. He commanded God’s people to wait for it, to hope in it, to expect it! Isaiah pointed to the Messiah in more detail and with such exactness that his prophecies have been quoted by the Church throughout history to point to the fulfillment of God’s promises through Jesus Christ. The people of God knew these promises, they knew the prophecies of Messiah, but they still sought salvation from Egypt instead of trusting in God to rescue them. That led to their destruction and deportation.

 

Because of our perspective today (hind sight is 20/20), we see now what God’s people couldn’t seem to hang onto for 700 hundred years even though God had told them everything they needed to have hope—God had promised and their hope was to be in His promises and not in their own abilities to rescue and deliver themselves from their situations and circumstances.  When we don’t wait on the Lord and we take matters into our own hands, we more times than not make it worse and cause ourselves greater worry and anxiety. We are to wait on the Lord to keep His promise for rescue and deliverance; for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:30-31 give us direction on how we are to remain hopeful in our everyday situations:

  1. We WAIT on the Lord to keep His promises through hard times;
  2. We HOPE in the Lord to accomplish His good purposes even when evil seems to be having its way; and
  3. We EXPECT the Lord to act in and through us in our situations and circumstances. This is the way of hope in our everyday lives.

 

The Gospel story of Jesus Christ starts with a time marker of Jesus’ birth (for both Jewish and non-Jewish listeners) because God wants us to see the importance of how God works in real history with real people who have real faith. The key to all of those great stories of the Bible is that the people of faith waited on the Lord, not always perfectly, but they lived by faith and trusted in the Lord’s promises.

 

Christmas is a story found in real time! Can you empathize with how difficult it must have been for the Israelites to wait on God through their circumstances? Waiting is hard! Because it’s not a passive waiting; it is a faithful, trusting, expecting waiting. Hope requires faith! The problem for us is not that we have learned to read the Bible with eyes of faith, but that we have not yet learned to look at the events of our lives the same way we read the Bible stories. So, we have created a disconnect between the hope we read about and the hope we experience.

 

Just as God gave us the prophecies of Jesus from Isaiah 700 years before the promise was fulfilled and just like there were 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptizer (i.e. the intertestamental period), God’s people have a long history of having to wait on God’s promises and even at times, waiting through God’s silence to us in our situations. It’s what we do in the waiting that determines whether or not we will experience hope or despair in our circumstances.

 

Truthfully, it is not the events that bring despair or depression in our lives, it is our interpretation of the events. I invite us to look at our daily circumstances with biblical hope.

 

Here’s how to have hope, not only this Christmas season, but from this day forward:

 

  1. DEVELOP A FAITH PERSPECTIVE ON EVENTS:
    As Isaiah taught us, we WAIT on the Lord to keep His promises through hard times. To do this, we must know the promises and persevere in the promises. That means our faith must become personal and intimate. It must work its way into the very nuts and bolts of our everyday working and playing lives. So often, in the past, we have allowed world events, national politics, community gossip, church challenges, family situations, work circumstances, and health struggles to determine our perspective on life. That is backwards! Your faith in Jesus Christ and what He has promised is the shaper of our conversations and how we interpret life. Faith shapes perspective: This is the way to hope!

 

As Paul taught us in Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

What shapes your daily conversations? How do you interpret your situations and circumstances? Is your faith in Jesus Christ worked into the very fabric of your whole life or is it compartmentalized into a Sunday morning religious observance?

 

  1. REMEMBER THAT THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE GREATER THAN OUR PROBLEMS!
    As Isaiah taught us, we HOPE in the Lord to accomplish His promises even when evil seems to be having its way and our problems seem bigger. Your faith in Jesus Christ brings hope by giving us God’s promises to hang onto when all the evidence of this life points away from an all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful God. Hope is not wishful thinking, like I hope it snows for Christmas. Hope is a certainty that faith in God and His promises is not displaced because He who promises is worthy of all trust!

 

God delivers on time, every time! Paul taught us the reality of how to live this way. He said in Philippians 4:6-9, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

 

We need a persevering faith that comforts us with not only the assurance of our salvation, but also the assurance of Jesus’ promise for the abundant life (John 10:10). There is no hope outside of the rest you gain from the assurances that God and His promises are right and true, every time and on time—in His time.

 

When you walk in the assurance that the PROMISES OF GOD are BIGGER THAN the PROBLEMS OF YOUR LIFE then you will experience the PEACE OF GOD.

 

But conversely, when you allow the PROBLEMS OF YOUR LIFE to LOOM LARGER THAN then PROMISES OF GOD then you will experience the ANXIETY OF THE MOMENT.

 

Every time you feel the emotion of anxiety, it’s an opportunity to turn it around and go to God with thanksgiving in your heart for who He is and His promises for your life! Don’t let anxiety condemn you, but allow the conviction you feel at the normal human emotion of anxiety to move you to God. Do you know the promises of God so that you can rest in Him? How do you work them into your heart and mind so that they can bring about the promised peace of God? What shapes your emotional well-being—your circumstances or His promises?

 

Your FAITH in Jesus Christ is the foundation of who you are (your identity!). The HOPE you have in the promises of God will shape your perspective and your perspective will shape your emotional well-being. What makes all this visible, is the LOVE of God put on display through your life during the hard and challenging times. That leads us to the final application:

 

  1. LIVE THE ABUNDANT LIFE OF LOVE!
    As Isaiah taught us, we EXPECT the Lord to act in and through real people in real situations and circumstances. I am here to tell you that you can be the solution to the situation. When all hope seems to be lost, be the hope by loving the people around you instead of reacting with anxiety and fear. Be the person that God uses to bless people by how you walk through your situations and circumstances. The world does not need any more doomsdayers, gossips, or troublemakers. Our nation has reached its quota on all of these and the church is called to be different than the culture, not co-opt it.

 

How can we be different? Biblical Hope! We hope in the promises of God! Just as we celebrate whole-heartedly the first coming of Christ every Christmas, we resolve to whole-heartedly hang on to the promises of God that Jesus will return; His second coming is imminent and the Kingdom of God can’t be thwarted by evil. We can love today because we know Love wins!

 

Our church is called to be the light of Jesus Christ to East-Central Indiana, not just a representative gathering of a growing minority of people called Christians who happen to live in East-Central Indiana. We are called to transform stories so that we will see thriving communities. That will only happen through LOVE! And the only way LOVE will happen in the hard times and difficult meetings and in controversial polarizing conversations is if each of us has our lives built on the foundation of the assurance of our faith in Jesus Christ, pillared by our hope in the persevering promises of God, and put on display by the Love that God first loved us!

 

As John, the Beloved of Jesus, taught us in 1 John 4:9-11, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

 

Christmas is a wonderful time to practice loving people in practical ways. Many people are weary and heavy-burdened during Christmas because they have forgotten that Jesus is the reason for the season. Their hope has been displaced from the reason of the season to the hustle and bustle of the season.

 

Let us give the greatest gift of all—the Hope of Jesus Christ through practical and intentional acts of love. You will spend a lot of time and money on giving gifts this season, but why not invest a lot of time and money on becoming the gift of God to our communities.

 

It has been said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

 

Christmas is the proclamation of the coming of Jesus Christ—the One who brought hope to the nations! Don’t go another second without the hope of Jesus Christ for yourself. Don’t let the weary and heavy-burdened of our community go another day apart from the real hope of Christmas. You are called to go from this place today and be the hope of Jesus Christ.
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] “קָוָה (qāwâ). vb. to wait, hope. In its basic sense, the term describes the act of waiting. It may indicate the act of expectation when a particular outcome is anticipated (often rendered “look for”) or the act of hoping when the expected outcome is desirable or beneficial” (Aaron C. Fenlason, “Hope,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014]).

 

[2] Aaron C. Fenlason, “Hope,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
 
Listen to Pastor Jerry’s message here:
 
 

Read more...
^