We all know how we SHOULD act. We all know what the “right way” is…we just don’t always DO it! Oh, we have he best of intentions. We try to do the right thing…we really do…but then something happens…or we are just having a bad day…and it all goes out the window. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t be “that person” all the time. Which is why…when those people come along, they stand out all the more. Let me tell you about one of them now.
Larry and Elmer were on
a hunting trip…and they got lost in the woods! Trying to offer some hope to his
friend, Larry said to Elmer, “Don’t worry. All we have to do is shoot into
the air 3 times, stay where we are, and someone will find us.” So they
shot into the air 3 times and waited…but no one came. After a while, they tried
again. Still no response. With hope dwindling, they decided to try once more
time. As they prepared to shoot, Elmer said, “I sure hope it works this
time…we’re down to our last 3 arrows!”
season of hope. We say things like, “It’s been a tough year, but with the hope
of Christmas on my side, next year…things will be different! And that sounds
great…but for many, Christmas doesn’t actually offer much hope. It’s just
another season of not enough money, too many presents to buy, too much stress
and pressure…and not enough time. That’s a life-draining Christmas…one with
little hope. But today we’re going to look at a life-GIVING Christmas, one that
eternal hope, on carrying that hope to others, knowing that no matter what we go through, we are never alone. We all want a deeper
hope, a clearer focus…but often we don’t know how to achieve it. If we truly
want a life-giving Christmas, drawing closer to God needs to take priority over
anything else on this year’s wish list.
living that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ is what differentiates
a Christian Christmas from a secular Christmas. What is your deepest hope this
Christmas? At Christmas, God came to earth wrapped in a human body. He came to
live among us so that we might know what He’s truly like. He came to open the
doors of heaven. He came to restore hope. Hope is vital – in fact it’s critical
– to our everyday survival. And because Jesus came, we experience forgiveness
for our sins, the transformation of our hearts and minds, the promise of heaven
and eternal life. What better gifts could we ask for? I went to the Bible, seeking
an answer to that question. And I ended up in a surprising place- The Message…a
translation of the Bible written by Eugene Peterson. I rarely use it to preach
from…it has…unusual ways to say things! But I found that, for this Advent
series, it works great! So let me share these words from The Message version of
you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day
obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The
night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is
doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when
we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these
precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and
dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and
get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress
yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch
wouldn’t budge. “Forget it,” the man finally said. “We’ll never
get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “In?
Often, our lives work counter to the true understanding of hope. Albert
Einstein said, “learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow”.
describes the challenge we face this Christmas. Day-to-day obligations increase
as Christmas nears- we tend to focus on entertaining, shopping, decorating and
all the other chores that we think are supposed to define a “perfect”
Christmas. But Paul says that we need to
make sure not to get so absorbed and exhausted
in taking care of all our day-by-day obligations that we become oblivious to
God. He encourages us to be awake to what God is doing! He says we need to get
out of bed and get dressed! Her says don’t loiter and linger, but dress ourselves
in Christ, and be up and about! In other words…have hope! But what IS hope?
fulfillment; desire with the expectation of obtaining; expect with confidence.”
Hope is an attitude of confidence, expectation, and trust- it’s faith holding
out its hand in the dark. A man approached a little league baseball game one
afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded,
“Eighteen to nothing–we’re behind.” “Boy,” said the
spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” “Why should I be
discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to
bat yet!” That’s hope!
to believe. Hope can be elusive – hard to get a hold of. Here are four things that
try to loosen our hold on hope:
energy runs short, so does courage and hope. If we push too hard for too long,
we tend to see diminishing returns- discouragement begins to set in…and hope
begin to wane.
back and wondered if you’ve made any difference? And when your efforts seem
worthless and ineffective, you get burned out. Burnout comes when we’re working
too hard at the wrong thing, or when we’re doing the right thing the wrong way.
In that circumstance, hope takes a nosedive.
failure. “I’m tired…fed up…I can’t do it anymore.” The difference is how we
deal with failure. When things go wrong, we’re prone to pay attention to the devil,
the great de-motivational speaker, and we end up thinking “I’m a failure.” And
aren’t happy with us, or don’t like us, we get fearful. Criticism is toxic,
poisonous. And when it comes at a time of fatigue and frustration, when we already
feel like a failure, it can destroy our hope.
and I will give you rest.” He says, “Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding
in the work of the Lord, for you know your labor is not in vain.” He says,
“Fear not, don’t be afraid, let not your hearts be troubled.” He says…have
hope! God will break in to time and space…and through our circumstances…to shed
new light…a light of hope.
affairs to provide something life-giving, real, lasting. We celebrate God’s
incredible love dwelling among us. We celebrate a gift beyond anything we could
possibly conceive or market on store shelves. We celebrate hope! Here are two ways that hope for the future can change our present.
happiness. In 21st century United States, we live in unprecedented prosperity.
And we tend to think that if we can just collect enough stuff…power,
prestige, possessions, relationships…we’ll be fulfilled. But all you have to
do is look around at the people that have those things and you’ll notice…they
aren’t fulfilled! Never in history have so many had so much for so long and
been so depressed about it. When we put our hope in God, we no longer try to satisfy our longings with
“stuff”. When we hope, we trust that God will satisfy us in ways that “stuff”
in the sky in the sweet by and by” kind of hope. It’s a hope that infuses
us with the ability to turn our eyes to God. The good news for those who are in
Christ Jesus is that we always have hope. Our hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus Christ. Think for a moment about how often the word “hopeless” arises in the details of
situation we see unfold on TV. If you take away our hope, our world falls into
a rut somewhere between depression and despair- hopelessness. But when life
hurts and dreams fade, nothing helps like hope. Hope isn’t just a pleasant
option that helps us temporarily clear a hurdle. It’s essential. It’s as
important to us as water is to a fish, electricity to a light bulb – hope is
that basic to life. We can’t stay on the road God calls us to without it, at
least not for very long. Many have tried, but none succeeded. We desperately
need hope in our lives! Hope is a wonderful gift from God, a source of strength
and courage in the face of life’s hardest trials. But true hope is only found
in God. And a lot of people aren’t looking there.
tunnel. When we’re overworked and underappreciated, hope gives us fresh energy. When we’re discouraged, hope lifts our spirits. When we’re tempted to quit,
hope keeps us going. When we lose our way, hope acts as our compass. When we
feel rejected and abandoned, hope reminds us we’re not alone.
time of waiting…waiting for the coming Messiah…Emmanuel…God with us…Jesus the
Christ. It’s a time anticipation, a time of hope! As you prepare for
Christmas, I encourage you to identify three things you’ll do differently this
Advent season. Replace things that deplete your energy AND your bank account
with things that bring renewed faith…and hope. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and comer back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow is an important day in the
Christian year- the beginning of Advent.
Advent (from the Latin words advenire– “to come to” and adventus–
“to arrive”) is the period of hopeful waiting and preparation for the
celebration of the birth of Jesus. It begins on the 4th
Sunday before Christmas (the Sunday nearest November 30), and ends on Christmas
Eve. The primary color of Advent is purple– the color of repentance
and fasting as well as the color of royalty. Advent is an opportunity for
Christians everywhere to consider the wonder and awe of our Creator choosing to
come into the world as a helpless child- a child who would save us.
What will Christmas be for you this year?
I pray that you are able to make positive, lasting memories with loved ones. I
pray that you are filled with the joy of the season. But most of all, I pray
that you will encounter Jesus Christ in a way you have yet to experience. We
read the Hallmark greeting cards that say “Jesus is the reason for the season”,
and we nod, smile, and go on about our day. But, despite their knack for syrupy
language, the greeting card industry got this one right. Jesus IS the reason
for the season.
Rampant consumerism doesn’t bring us any
closer to God; focusing on the coming of the Messiah in Bethlehem does. The reason Jesus came into
the world (“Word made flesh”) was to reveal God’s grace. Have you
experienced that grace this season? This month, go to church- Sunday morning,
Wednesday evening, Christmas Eve, whenever- and experience the reason for Christmas. May
God bless you and those dear to you this Advent season!
Today is (cue the ominous music)…Black Friday! Some people think this is the BEST day of the year! Others (i.e. ME) would rather have a pointy stick jabbed at them than to have to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. (Although, if I’m honest, I don’t REALLY like to shop the other 364 days of the year either!) Here are some interesting tidbits about this phenomenon known as Black Friday:
Things I’m thankful for:
Kids are great. They have the most imaginative minds and think of the greatest things. When my oldest son was little…probably about 4 years old…we were sitting at McDonald’s one day. He had the obligatory Happy Meal, and we were sitting in our obligatory plastic chairs, eating our meal. I looked over and noticed that he seemed to be…inspecting…a french fry. He had bit the top of it off and was scrutinizing the inside. I asked him what he was doing, and he asked the best question- “I’m looking at the inside of this french fry and I’m wondering…how did they get those mashed potatoes inside this fry?” And if you bite a french fry in half and look in the middle…it LOOKS like mashed potatoes! I envision these incredibly dedicated chefs with those big tubes that they use to pipe icing on to cakes. The tubes are full of mashed potatoes (of course) and they have each individual hollow “fry shell”, and they pipe those mashed potatoes right in! THAT would make french fries VERY expensive!