Every Christmas season, there is a plethora of cheesy romance movies that come out on television - and Netflix! They are all quite predictable and the ending is clear from the first five minutes of the film. Yet new movies are made year after year, with re-runs being played in-between, so people must be watching them! Perhaps it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Christmas - at its heart - is about love!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, KJV)
The Christmas season is about celebrating the birth of Christ - the manifestation of God’s love! God loves us and wants us to be with Him forever! Since Adam, sin has separated us from Him. There was only one possible sacrifice that could be made to rejoin us with Him. God’s love is the entire reason we celebrate Christmas! Its a sacrifice no other could make.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, ESV)
In two of the ten commandments were are instructed to love. And, when questioned, Jesus acknowledges the importance of the commandments of love. It is our love for Christ, and therefore out love for others, that helps distinguish us as children of the Lord.
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. (Isaiah 65:18, ESV)
She seemed to radiate from within, always with a smile upon her face. You knew she was kind and caring; she always had cookies and milk for visitors and surprised you with a home cooked meal as your were recovering from a minor surgery. It wasn’t until you stopped in to return a dish that you finally, officially met her husband. He had suffered a severe stroke some years before and was left mostly paralyzed. She was his full time caregiver, always with a smile. Her joyful attitude made you reflect upon you own attitude, especially during your recent time of difficulty.
Attitude is a choice, was a frequent saying during the teenage years, one that often had the opposite of the desired effect. Joy is an attitude, it is a reflection of our heart. David felt joy when he leapt and danced for the Lord! And we know David’s heart - he was seeking the Lord. The Lord brings joy, true joy into our lives.
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. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9, ESV)
In the 2000 movie, Miss Congeniality, contestants of a beauty contest were asked what they thought was “the one most important thing our society needs?” Without fail, every contestant, except one, answered “World Peace.” As that one contestant learned, the only way to receive approval was to say, “World Peace.” Throughout time, many people have wished for world peace. Some have great ideas of how to achieve it! And as we approach Christmas in this second week of Advent, our focus turns towards peace.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV)
On of the many names given to the prophesied Messiah was “Prince of Peace.” He would bring peace; peace to everyone and peace on earth - World Peace. We should also desire peace; peace through Christ and peace in the world.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2, ESV)
Have you looked at the news recently? What do you see? Death? Destruction? Bickering? Belittlement? How does the news make you feel? Sad? Frustrated? We are bombarded with news all day everyday. Often it is the same news repeated over and over…and over and over, until we are sick and tired of hearing about it! This news is depressing and bad for our mental health. When was the last time we heard good news?!
Over 2,000 years ago, the world was much the same. The same news, the same village gossip, repeated over and over until someone brought something different to talk about. For the Jews, no doubt, the talk was of Rome. For Jews did not live free, but under the rule of the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. And in their talk of the repressive and controlling regime, their talk would eventually turn to talk of hope.
While not discussed everyday, it is - or should - often be in the minds of Christians: Christ’s return. Similarly, 2,000 years ago, the Jews would dwell on the thought, the hope of the promised Messiah! It was thought that the Messiah would be a great warrior, lead an army to wipe out the Romans, and bring salvation and peace. They were thinking in earthly terms, not spiritual. Are we?
The celebration of Advent in the weeks leading up to Christmas, is a time to travel back, experience the feelings and emotions of the Jews. Today, we experience many of the same feelings and emotions that the Jews felt awaiting their promised Messiah, just as we await the return of Christ.
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. (1 Peter 1:3-5, ESV)
While the Jews wait in hope of the coming Messiah, we wait in hope of His return. There is not doubt of His return, rather our hope is living! It comes from the sacrifice He has already made. We have hope because we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior! We have hope in our knowledge that we will one day be with Him for eternity!
But we often try to take too much upon ourselves when we do not need to, especially during the busy holiday season! This week take time to meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon the Hope of Advent. Remember to place your hope in the Lord! Give over your fears, anxiety, and stress to Lord and place your hope in Him!
Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is
Advent--that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate,
for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth,
when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels:
"On earth peace to those on whom God's favor rests."
Learn to wait, because he has promised to come.
"I stand at the door..."
We however call to him: "Yes, come soon,
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom: the essential writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
On December 2, 2018, the new church year begins with the Season of Advent. Advent beings on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, with Christmas Day not being counted as part of Advent, for it is the culmination. It is a time of preparation, self-reflections, anticipation, and excitement. A time of hope, a time of peace, a time of joy, and a time of love. It is a time in which we can look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, look forward to His Second Coming, and celebrate Him being with us, always.
In the previous years, The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries, Inc. has taken you on a journey through prophecy. Together we have examined dozens of prophecies laid out in the Old Testament, and then seen their direct fulfillment in the New Testament! Sometimes, living in the future does have its advantages!
This Advent season, our focus will be on the larger picture of Advent. The themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. Join us each week as we examine one of these themes! Let’s share our excitement together for Christmas! Excitement that spans the years, the decades, and the millenniums - from God’s covenant with Abraham, to now, to the final days!