Glorious!

Glorious:                                                                                                                 delightful; wonderful; completely enjoyable;                                                 conferring glory;                                                                                                          full of glory; entitled to great renown;                                                             brilliantly beautiful or magnificent; splendid

Very few things in this world are truly ‘glorious‘, but we occasionally do find them:

A glorious sunset; the glory of the miracle of birth; the glory of true love.

 

However, there is One who is glorious in everything He does--The God.

When He intervenes in the affairs of earth, it’s usually ‘glorious’.

At Christmastime, we think of one of the most ‘Glorious’ events in human history–the coming of God to earth, in the form of Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem. We read about it in the Gospel of Luke, Ch. 2:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:1-16)

Can you imagine?

Imagine, for example, what it would have been like to be those shepherds–loners, looked down upon, considered ‘ceremonially unclean’–and here was an angel breaking through the night sky to announce the birth of the Savior–God in the Flesh–to them!

angel-and-shepherds

Then the whole sky filled with angels giving ‘glory’ to God!

What a ‘glorious’ night that was!

As Linus Van Pelt says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”!

May we–today–get a glimpse of His Glory at Christmas.

 

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December 1st                       Merry Christmas! Pastor Dave

One thing our family likes to do—after Thanksgiving—is to ‘immerse’ ourselves in Christmas stuff. We listen to Christmas music, put up the decorations, get out our Christmas devotional books, start making cookies, and so on. One of the things we like best is to sit around and watch Christmas movies.

I have several favorites: The Grinch (both Jim Carrey version and the original cartoon); A Christmas Carol (I prefer the George C. Scott version); The Nativity Story. On of my all-time favorites is  A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I love Linus’ speech explaining the ‘True Meaning of Christmas’!

If you haven’t watched that show, you really should. It’s a classic.

If you have watched it, you know how it ends: After an ‘Epic Fail’ at choosing a Christmas Tree—where he chooses a scrawny ‘real wood’ tree when he was supposed to choose a “great big, shiny aluminum tree”, Charlie says in despair “everything I touched gets ruined”. He leaves the tree to go off by himself.

His friends, however, have had second thoughts and have followed him. When they find the tree, they surround it and through the ‘magic’ of animation they transform that scrawny tree into a beautiful Christmas tree! When Charlie returns, he does a double take and can’t believe his eyes! Just then his friends all call out “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”, and start singing one of my favorite Christmas Carols, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”.

 

 

That song says these words:

“Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more my die;

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth! Hark!

The herald angels sing, “Glory to the Newborn King!”

 

Ultimately, that is what Christmas—and Jesus’ life, death and resurrection—were for.

He died so that we could be forgiven and have ‘second birth’—meaning to be “Born Again”—born spiritually, as we have already been, physically. It only comes by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, but it is crucial! As Jesus said, “No one will see the Kingdom of God, unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)

 

Read and Discuss:

Read John 3:1-17 and discuss what it means to be ‘born again’. Have you been?

Read Ephesians 2:8-9 and discuss what is necessary to be ‘saved’.

 

Activity: List your favorite Christmas movies to watch this year (note: I recommend making room on that list for A Charlie Brown Christmas!)

Peace On Earth

The angels said it “Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace on Earth, good will to men on whom His favor rests”. (Luke 2:14)

They said that this ‘Peace’ was bound together with the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord…Jesus.

So…that was 2,000+ years ago…where is the Peace On Earth?

 

There seems to be just the opposite. Wars, conflict, complaints, friction, negativity.

These seem to be the ‘norm’…not “Peace on Earth”.

 

On Christmas day in 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem to echo the sadness of his own life, after he had seen both his 1st and 2nd wives die in tragic form, and in the midst of the American Civil War. He asked the question…where is this “Peace”?

     “In despair I bowed my head…there is no peace on earth, I said; for hate is strong and mocks the song of ‘Peace on Earth, good      will to men’.

It seemed that was is about to give up hope.

 

Yet, it is here, and it is real…for those ‘on whom His favor rests”.

Those who have acknowledged Him, those who have acknowledged their own sin and desperate need for forgiveness and salvation.

Those who have given their lives, past, present, and future over to Him.

They can have peace.

Peace with God, the Peace of God, and Peace with others.

Peace in the midst of trying circumstances.

Peace in the midst of swirling messes of conflict.

 

Peace on Earth is still here!

 

 Longfellow couldn’t stop hearing the bells…and they reminded him that present circumstances, tough as they may be, don’t always show the reality behind the scenes!

‘Then rang the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail–with Peace on Earth, good will to men!”

 

This season, may the peace of Christ fill your hearts–no matter what is going on around you!

 

Listen to Longfellow’s words put to music:

Joseph’s Story

Joseph.

Not much is known about him, but he must have been someone ‘special’ too.

Special, in that the Lord knew he would listen and follow. The Lord knew that he was a righteous man. The Lord knew he would follow through.

What do we know about him?

He was ‘righteous’ (Matthew 1:19)

He was apparently tuned in to the Lord (Matthew 1:20-24; 2:13-15)

He was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55)

And he was willing.

That’s about it. Don’t know how long he lived, what he thought about Jesus as he grew.

Think about this: Joseph had to be the ‘father’ to the Son of God!

How do you teach the Son of God?

How do you discipline Him, direct Him, advise Him?

All of these things had to have been difficult for Joseph, but like Mary, he was willing and faithful.

…and that’s exactly what we are asked to be!

Joseph doesn’t get much credit in church history, not much ‘press’, but he’s a good man, a good father, and a willing participant in God’s AMAZING plan!

Many of us have opportunities like that too–not to be the earthly father of the Son of God, but to be part of God’s plan in this world.

Most of us, like Joseph, will serve in relative anonymity. Not many will really know what we do.

That’s not important.

What is important is that we say ‘yes’, everyday…not only with our voices, but also with our actions.

We say ‘yes’ as we faithfully love our spouses and lead our families.

We say ‘yes’ as we do the absolute best job we can wherever we’re working.

We say ‘yes’ as we try to sensitively but consistently bring the Lord into our daily lives and conversation, and

We say ‘yes’ as we love one another as Christ did.

Today, you and I can be like Joseph.

Despite all the questions we have, we can say “YES”!

Watch the video, (The clip begins at the 5:25 mark and goes to 7:15)

Consider…

1) What is one way you have said ‘yes’ to God in your daily life over the past week?

2) What is one more way He is moving you to say ‘yes’ to Him this week?

Prayer Focus:

Pray about your willingness to serve the Lord, and your desire to ‘welcome Him’ into your everyday life.

The Baby Changes Everything!

“I am the Lord’s servant” (Luke 1:38)

-It’s a great way for us to answer Him when He calls to us also!

The baby changed everything for Mary, but He’s still changing everything for us who get to know Him by faith.

Many of us have a ‘story’ of how we came to faith in Christ…how ‘I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see’.

Others grew up in the Church, being taught of the love, grace and beauty of God, and the wisdom of following Him and His Word from early in life.

You may not have a ‘dramatic’ story of conversion to faith.

None of that really matters.

What matters–for real–is the love you have for the Lord now. The willingness you have to love and serve Him, and to follow where He leads, investing in the priorities He leads you to.

Those are the things that will really matter!

 

Listen to Faith Hill’s beautiful song:

Consider and Discuss:

How did you come to know and believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ?

How has He influenced your life?

In what ways are you showing Him your love for Him and willingness to submit to Him in faith and trust–like Mary did?

Prayer focus:

Pray that the Lord would increase your faith and help you to say ‘yes’!

Rest…and MIGHT!

Church songs have often been ‘stuffy’ over the years.

This is not a new phenomenon–more that 500 years ago, church songs–even about Christmas–were serious and somber, and there was little that the ‘everyday man’ could do about it. They had no power to change “The Church”.

So, what did they do? They started to write songs about Christmas that were ‘Folk Songs’, sung outside the church.

These were the first ‘Christmas Carols’.

One song sung around that time was one that we often associate with Charles Dickens and England in the 1800s, but was written to be a merry, joyous song about the most joy-producing event ever: The Birth of Jesus Christ.

This song, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen!” has been sung ever since.

Originally this song’s emphasis was not on ‘resting’ because of birth of Christ, but that the birth of Christ made men MIGHTY to do the things He wanted, and to overcome Satan!

One way of interpreting the first line of the song–according to today’s reading–is something like “Rest and be Merry, gentlemen! Don’t worry dismay–remember that Christ has been born!”

The way it was originally understood, however, was more like this: “God make you Mighty, Gentlemen! No matter where you come from, remember that Jesus has come to conquer the enemy, and save us from his power!”

As you read the lyrics of the song, think of these two contrasts:

Was God giving us ‘rest’ and ‘peace’ by sending Jesus on that first Christmas night, OR

Was God equipping us for battle to defeat the enemy (satan) hand-in-hand marching together?

I think both are true, but singing the song with the former intent encourages me to settle in and take it easy, celebrating His love, while latter intent makes me more willing to go out in the power and strength of the Lord, taking the battle to the enemy.

Listen to (or read) the song now.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Consider and Discuss:

In what ways does God use Jesus to bring us Peace and Joy?

In what ways does He equip us for battle, through Jesus?\

Prince of Peace

Newsflash: This world is FULL of conflict!

Strained relationships, tense work environments, bullies on the playground, governments at war…there are many examples of conflict all around us.

Jesus comes to us as the “Prince of Peace” to change all that.

“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.” (Isaiah 9:6)

What does this mean?

I think it means that He–the Christ child–was (and is) the key to Peace, in at least 3 ways:

Peace With God

Peace Of God

Peace Because of God

The ‘Peace With God’ is the most obvious: Jesus came as the perfect Son of God, so that He would live the perfect life–thereby fulfilling the “Law”. As a result, He was able to willingly lay His life down on behalf of those who believe in Him, paying the penalty for our sin, and making it possible for us to have a relationship with God. We now have “PEACE with God”!

It would be like you owing money that you have NO WAY of paying, when suddenly someone else steps in and generously pays your debt in full.

The ‘Peace Of God’ aspect of Jesus’ coming is that He enables us to have  “Peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7), even in the midst of difficult circumstances and trials. This peace comes from knowing that He has brought us through tough times in the past, and He promises to do so in the present and future. Knowing this–deep in our core–enables us to ‘rest’ and not worry.

The ‘Peace Because of God’ shows up in our relationship to others. Because we know that we are saved and forgiven by God’s Grace, through Faith in Jesus, we don’t have any reason, motivation, or justification in holding grudges and keeping conflicts going with others. As the Scriptures say, “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32). In other words,’ In The Same Way that God has forgiven you (completely, totally, without regard to what you (and I) deserve), so you should forgive each other.

When Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, it meant all that, and more. Jesus was (and is) our source of peace, and in order to truly WORSHIP Him this Christmas, we must embrace His peace–with God, within ourselves, and with others.

That is a a great way to ‘worship Him.

 

Consider and Discuss: Has there been a time in your life when you did NOT have “peace with God?” If so, when did that change?

Is there any way in which your circumstances are robbing you of the Peace Of God?

If you have ongoing conflict with another, what would the Prince of Peace inspire you to do?