Tag: Christmas

The Eternal Hope of Christmas

Hope. Peace. Love. Joy. The four themes of advent help us to remember the great impact of Jesus coming to Earth in human form. And hope is a concept that we sometimes have a poor view of. When we speak of the hope of Jesus, it’s not a vague good feeling or uncertain but positive vibe; it’s a solid belief in the fulfillment of the promises of a faithful God.  And so as we reflect on what Christmas means for our sense of hope, we are reminded of several promises.

Christmas reminds us of the hope of life eternally spent with God.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. – 1 John 5:13

For the believer, we know that our future is kept by the Father. And we KNOW that we have eternal life. That’s a secure position, not something that will change on a whim. And verse 14 goes on to say this-

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

We have CONFIDENCE that we have access to the Father’s ear! That alone is a mind-blowing thought, that the Creator of the universe listens to our small voice! And not just listens to us out of obligation, but out of love.And when we hear “eternal” in this verse, we tend to only consider eternity future, the unimaginable life in heaven with Jesus and without sin. But our hope is not just for a future that we wait to attain!

Christmas reminds us of the hope we have in our daily walk with the Lord. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10

The reminder of salvation through faith alone because of God’s calling is a great stabilizer for when we feel unworthy or inadequate. God saved us through His doing, not our own, and yet He also prepared for us good works to do, fueling our desire to become more like Jesus and stay close to Him and His Word! The recreation of our lives in Jesus is a feat that only God could do, and the fact of Jesus’ human incarnation reminds us that we have a Savior who understands intimately what it is like to live on this planet.  The beginning of His physical presence that we celebrate on Christmas is an awesome picture of the Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). The broken world we live in will inevitably have trials and tribulations, but the Christmas story speaks into this as well.

Christmas reminds us of the hope of life beyond the distresses of this world. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:3-6

Listen to the power of the words here. Imperishable. Undefiled. Unfading. Kept in heaven for you, guarded by God’s power. These strongholds help us as we face our trials. Our hope is not in something flimsy or imperfect, but in an amazingly powerful God who will see us through all difficulties. And while we know this life will have struggles, we know that’s not the end of the story

Christmas reminds us of the hope of a renewed life to come. 

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. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This is how hope helps us to live out our faith. While hope may be set on things unseen, we have full assurance that God is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. THIS is the hope that we have, not that life will be easy, but that the worst we face here is the worst we will ever experience, and it pales in comparison to our eternal future.As Christmas draws near, I am praying this over you just as Paul did over the believers in Rome at the end of his letter. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).

Love in Christ,
Pastor Ben

Prepare Him Room This Advent Season

Whether you’re ready for it or not, the Christmas season is upon us. At the MacNaughton house, we’ve got our Christmas tree up, lights hung around the house, and we’re about 37 Christmas movies into December. And we haven’t even made it to December yet!

While the Christmas season is underway, the Church calendar has designated the season leading up to Christmas Day as “Advent”. The word “Advent” simply means “awaited coming” and is mostly used during this particular time of year when we celebrate the coming of a Savior. But it also helps draw our hearts to the awaiting second coming of our Savior when He will bring His church to the home He has prepared for us.

Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these last days (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people.

There are four themes seen throughout the Advent Season: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. For the next few weeks, we will take a few moments to look at these themes together on Sunday mornings and celebrate the Savior who came to this earth and is coming again. 

Advent both reminds us of the overflowing, extravagant nature of God the Father who, because he loved us so much He sent His Son Jesus (John 3:16), has given us hope (Hebrews 6:9-20), peace (Luke 2:8-21), and joy (Luke 2:1-20). Truly, the Christmas season is an incredible opportunity to reflect on all that Christ has done for us. Without His love, we cannot love Him (1 John 4:19). Without His peace, we are still His enemies (Ephesians 2:1-10). Without His hope, we are hopeless (Romans 8:24-25). Without his joy, we have no joy (Hebrews 12:1-2).

This coming Sunday, we will share with you on the Grace Life App our 2022 Advent devotional guide for you to sit down and do with your family. You’ll have daily Scripture readings centered around the themes of Advent and a few activities to help carry the truth of Christmas home for your family. While we celebrate the coming of our Savior, we wait patiently for the second coming of our King Jesus! 

Which makes the words of this familiar Christmas song by Isaac Watts even more wonderful when we sing it as it was intended: a song about the second coming of Jesus.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

 

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!

Let men their songs employ,

while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, 

repeat the sounding joy,

repeat the sounding joy,

repeat , repeat the sounding joy.

 

He rules the world with truth and grace

and makes the nations prove 

the glories of his righteousness 

and wonders of his love, 

and wonders of his love, 

and wonder, wonders of his love.

 

So church, prepare your hearts. Make room for Jesus this Christmas. In fact, and better yet, make Him the central focus in all you do this Christmas. Without him, there would be no Christmas to celebrate. 

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

ThanksGivers

November 1st for many is the start of a new season. Some might call it the holiday season, some the Month of Thankfulness, some the beginning of two and a half months of Christmas. And now that Thanksgiving is upon us, this holiday that may get lost in the hustle and bustle of being busy gives us an opportunity to reflect on things that we are thankful for.  The tradition of gathering with family and friends around a meal, taking a moment and stating aloud what we are grateful for  is an awesome practice, and we know that the Church is called to be the best ThanksGivers around. What do I mean by this?

When we look at the Pauline letters, we see that the New Testament is full of exhortations to be thankful.

Colossians 2:6-7 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Philippians 4:4-7  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Certainly this list is not exhaustive, but this last set of verses contains something that I think most people are very concerned with: what is God’s will for me?  I would argue one piece of the puzzle is to be a ThanksGiver.  Paul here gives three points to consider what that looks like.

First, we should be a rejoicing people. The Greek word here for rejoice comes from the same root that is used for grace. Our understanding of God’s will starts with recognizing that it was His will to save us from our sinful state, and this perspective should transform our outlook on all parts of life. And it’s not just rejoice sometimes, but always! Sometimes we forget about the circumstances of the original writer or the receivers of these letters, but their lives were full of struggles and hardships and celebrations and amazement, just like our own lives. This timeless approach from God’s Word applies to us in the same way it applied to them.

Second, we should be a praying people.  Remember that prayer is a continual, intimate conversation with God that is grounded in knowing who he is and that what He has said from HIs Word is true. This word “continual” may be better translated as “incessant” or “uninterrupted”. The idea here is that we recognize God is always available and that His Spirit is with us, and so we have a companion with whom to share our lives with every moment of the day. It’s not saying that we shouldn’t take time to get away and have uninterrupted prayer (Jesus did this constantly), but if that is the only time we involve God in the daily inner talk of our lives, we are missing out on a piece of God’s will for us.

Finally, we should be a thankful people. I love the phrase that comes along with this command to give thanks- in ALL circumstances. This can be tough because we know life is messy and broken. But if we choose to find thankfulness, the peace of God starts to truly rule our lives in those seasons. Something like taking each letter of the alphabet and making an “I’m thankful for ____” can reorient our hearts and minds back to just how good God is and remind us that He is near to us. The Psalms also provide a great resource as both a prayer guide and a way to infuse thankfulness. Some of them remain unresolved in their conflict but are resolved to give thanks to the Lord regardless.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I promise you that this ThanksGiver approach will make everything easier to endure. It helps us to realize that even when it doesn’t make sense, or it doesn’t fit in the plan you had for your life, or if it came out of nowhere, God knew it was coming, and at some point you will see it is for your benefit. I’ve held on to these truths through my own circumstances-

Rejoice- Psalm 119:68 You are good and you do good; teach me your statutes.
Pray- Romans 12:2- And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Give Thanks- Romans 8:28- And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

So, take to heart these practices.  Seek Christ’s joy daily. Talk to God about everything as you read from His Word. Choose the thankful perspective, no matter what you are facing. This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, and my hope and prayer for you in the coming weeks.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Ben

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