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Dec 24, 2018

Jesus--Our Hope, Love, Joy and Peace

Jesus--Our Hope, Love, Joy and Peace

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Christmas 2018

Keywords: advent, hope, jesus christ, joy, love, peace

Summary:

This Christmas Eve service looks at the four aspects of Advent: Love, Joy, Peace and Hope. Combined with many of the beloved Christmas carols, we look at how Jesus is each of these needed experiences to us. Which do you need most this Christmas and coming year?

Detail:

Jesus our Hope, Love, Joy & Peace

Christmas Eve

December 24, 2018

This evening we invite you to celebrate afresh the birth of Jesus. There are so many reasons why God’s coming, veiled in the human flesh of Jesus Christ, should be the fuel for the fire of our celebration this day.  This Christmas Eve we invite you to consider just 4 of those reasons.  Through song, Scripture and brief meditations, we trust you will be able to celebrate afresh God’s gift of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace to you in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

So let’s begin with…

HOPE

From the time we were little tots, all of us have been trained to fill Christmas with huge hopes.  We were taught to make lists and lists of things we wanted, to mail them to the North Pole or go visit some big fella with a creepy white beard all dressed in red wearing black boots.  We were told to sit on his lap, and tell him what we hoped for that Christmas. 

ILL:  How many of you here remember the old Crescent Department Store downtown? 

The Crescent was the Macy’s of Spokane.  It was also the only storefront downtown to survive the great Spokane Fire of 1889. (Different building from the one we have had over the past 100 years.)  The owners were a Robert Paterson (who happened to be my next door neighbor growing up) and Capt. James Comstock.  The day after that great fire, the Crescent completely sold out of its entire stock of dry goods because both Paterson and Comstock decided not to take advantage of the situation by raising their prices even a penny.   

From my earliest days, I can remember going down to the Crescent Department Store at Christmas.  Its huge glassed display window on the corner of Wall & Main was something every Spokanite made sure to visit at Christmas.  It was THE most beautiful and fascinating Christmas display in town, year after year. 

After taking in that Christmas display window, my parents would take us inside that enormous, 7-story store where we would ride up the first escalators ever to be installed in Spokane.  Those “moving staircases” would deposit us on the 4th floor where we would walk through what seemed like acres of toys, further fueling our childhood hopes for much more than just a white Christmas.  J

Childhood hopes are usually replaced by adult dreams. We hope for the perfect romance, the best spouse, a dream-job…or car…or house.  Like little kids in the Crescent Department Store, we are conditioned to fill our minds with hopes for every shiny thing we could want and every stellar relationship we’ll never have. 

As a result, Christmas often becomes a time of disappointed hopes and dreams.  But perhaps it is precisely Christmas disappointments that God wants to use to lead us to genuine hope? You see, people and things were never meant to be our hope in Christmas…or life.  If anything should teach us that our souls were meant to hope in God, Christmas should.

Even that first Christmas, there was plenty of disappointment for Mary and Joseph themselves.  An “unplanned pregnancy,” divine as it was, was undoubtedly not what they hoped for that first year.  An utterly wearisome, totally disruptive journey to Bethlehem was certainly not in Mary’s hope chest as a young woman. A strange city, filled to overflowing with tired travelers and taxing Romans was not what they had hoped for.  And a smelly, dark, dirty, vermin-and-animal infested stable was certainly not the birthing room this young couple had hoped for.

But when Jesus came…born of this prophesied virgin, born in that historic kingly town of Bethlehem, attended by angelic appearances, the presence of God himself in the miracle of a little baby, hope found its rightful place in human history.  The One in whose name Isaiah said “the nations will put their hope” (Is. 42:1-4), was named Jesus that night. 

Some 6 decades later, the Apostle Paul would quote that same prophet Isaiah in his letter to the Romans (15:12) and tell us that this very Jesus is the Savior “in whom the Gentiles will hope.” 

Ever since that lowly birth, Jesus has been the hope of the world.  Christ-followers around the world and through 20 centuries of human history have found God himself in the person of Jesus Christ the HOPE that serves as “an anchor for their souls” (Heb. 6:18, 19).

Jesus brought us hope for reconciliation with God, for personal, daily fellowship with God

Christ in us is our “hope of glory (Co. 1:27) and our firm hope in a final resurrection from the dead (I Cor. 15). 

APP:  So how about exchanging hopes this Christmas?  How about letting go of lesser dreams that disappoint and instead embracing the only true “God of hope” in the person of Jesus Christ? 

HOW?  By simply saying “yes” to Jesus.  By handing him the disappointments that dog your soul and exchanging them for a personal relationship with Him that will redeem and revive your spirit? 

[Sinner’s prayer?]

With the Apostle Paul, let us together bless one another with this Scriptural blessing:  Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

JOY

Every one of the 4 focuses of Advent we are looking at tonight has a deeply emotional component.  But perhaps none as obvious as the word JOY. 

            In English, there are many synonyms for “joy.” 
Listen to a few of them: delight, great pleasure, jubilation, 

rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, 

elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture.  There’s a lot of positive emotion packed into this idea of joy.  And it is the kind of emotion most if not all of us wish we had more of, no? 

            The biblical idea of joy has a couple of important facets to it.  Like the proverbial “coin” with two sides to it, joy has two very important components.  Joy always has a cause and it always has an effect.  Something promotes or provokes joy in us and, as a result, something should almost always proceed out of us.  Joyful people are called joyful because they always express that joy in some tangible way. 

            [Slide]  Tell me, which person is joyful?  You don’t even have to know how to talk to be able to express joy.  Joy is something that just bursts out from a certain condition of heart within. 

            So why is JOY associated so much with the birth of Jesus?  We can probably understand how Joseph and Mary, after the birth of Jesus, would be filled with joy.  Every parent of a healthy newborn finds those moments some of the most joy-filled of their entire lives. Mothers often cry for joy once their labor is over and they hold that infant close to their heart. Fathers, grown men often cry for joy when they hold, for the first time, their little newborn in their arms.

            That Christmas so long ago was punctuated with, not only a “heavenly host” but a host of emotions.  And JOY seems to be the dominant one. Sleepy shepherds got a taste of it even though terrified by the glory of angelic appearances and choirs.     

Luke 2:8-10

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.

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.”

            Even angels, who would not be the direct recipients of all the blessings brought to mankind through the incarnation of the Son of God, had to break out in joyful unison with proclamations of the wonder of God’s great work for us through Jesus.  Praise of God is one of the greatest manifestations of real joy in human and angelic experience. 

            Then there were the magi or wise men who traveled so very far from the east to come worship the Christ child.  Matthew 2:9-11 tells us,

“…They went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

            How do we know these sage, grown men were filled with joy?  They sought hard for the Christ child.  They traveled a great distance to find him.  They brought the fruits of their labors—costly items of great value.  And they worshiped a small child. 

            JOY is that deep-seated gladness of heart that comes when the human heart is exposed to the things and person of God.  It can happen in a million ways in this world—

  • upon viewing a stunning sunset…or a beautiful child.
  • Joy can come seeing the success of someone you value…or the presence of someone you love.

Joy is the proper and spontaneous response of the human heart to presence of what is truly good, right, wholesome, beautiful and praiseworthy. 

            That is why when the magi saw the star, they rejoiced greatly.  It was a very immediate, present, powerful encounter with the God who makes stars, the Creator of the universe.  It was a very immediate reminder that God had prompted their journey and He would bring it to completion. It was another encounter with the fingerprints of God on our world. 

            And as the angel said to the shepherds, the coming of our Savior would cause “great joy for all the people.” 

  • Just look at how much joy-filled music has been composed through the ages because of Jesus!
  • Just talk to some of God’s children who have been delivered from the ravages of sin by the Savior Jesus.
  • Just listen to the worship of people who have been redeemed by Jesus from every tribe and tongue and nation in this world as they express through singing and dancing, through shouts and prayers, the freedom from guilt and shame that knowing Jesus has brought them!

Jesus is the one being, the one relationship that can bring joy every day of life to anyone open-hearted enough to draw near to Him and let Him draw near to you. 

The Christ is that one being who will never leave you nor abandon you. 

He is the one Shepherd of your soul who will lead you into green pastures and beside still waters, even while the storms of life rage about you. 

So come closer to Jesus.  Come near to God who suffered in this life even more than we will but did so willingly, for us.  Let the most joy-filled Being in the universe share His joy with you.  And when He does, don’t hide the expression of it from others.  Don’t just sing “Joy to the World” once a year.  Let the joy of the Lord be your strength.  And let it find expression in worship, in praise, in song, in service and in a million other happy outcomes. 

            Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

PEACE

So what is “peace”?  Well, it’s a 1,200 mile river in northern Canada! 

Seriously, when it comes to a definition of what we commonly call “peace,” it seems that most definitions focus on the absence of something, not the presence of something. 

Webster defines peace as:

  • freedom from civil disturbance (war, riots, etc.)
  • freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions (worry, anxiety, fear, dread, hatred, bitterness, etc.)

But Webster also gives it some positive, present qualities:

  • a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom
  • harmony in personal relations

So “peace” by these definitions has to do with…

1.) What is going on in the human heart/psyche

2.) What is going on between human beings. 

The Bible…and the Nativity story specifically…adds one more component to peace.  It’s actually THE most critical component to peace in the other two arenas of human relationship and soul life.  It’s peace in relationship to God. 

            We’re told in Genesis that, at the beginning of human existence, peace of heart and peace in relationship to the creation and other human beings was utterly dependent upon peace with God.  When that peace was disrupted by sin, every other form of peace evaporated like a mist in the morning sun.  Peace was replaced by conflict, animosity, war, murder, hatred, running from God and judging others. 

            As much as we may think we long for peace on earth today, God is really the One who longs the most for it.  He is the One who has done all the most important work of reconciling mankind to himself.  And being reconciled to God is the only place men and women will find a sufficient foundation for the peace we so often crave in our world, between nations, in our city, in our schools and workplaces, in our marriages and with our children…and in our own souls. 

            That is why declarations of peace figure so prominently in the Nativity story.  That great host of angels in Luke 2 understood this relationship of peace on earth to peace with God when they shouted,  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

God’s favor cannot rest on sin.  Nor can it rest on sinners who refuse to acknowledge their sin nor turn from it to the living God.  But Peter, when speaking to a bunch of Gentiles like us at the house of Cornelius in ancient Caesarea in Acts 10 said,

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”   

The one who was “Lord of all” became servant of all.  The one who was all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, all-justice and love and truth and grace…that “Lord of all” wrapped his greatness in weak, human flesh, was birthed by Mary and then took on himself all the sins of mankind so that we might take upon ourselves peace with God. 

            This is why Christmas is truly about peace.  Without crucifying our hostility against God on the cross, without absorbing God’s righteous, holy judgment against our sins in His body on that cross, there would be no peace between any of us and God…and there would be little secondary peace between each of us nor even in our own souls. 

Ephesians 2:13-14

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility….”

APP:   If you are looking for peace in your soul, you need to look first to Jesus.

            If you are looking for peace in your marriage or family, friendships or peers, you need to look first to Jesus.

            If you are looking for peace in this crazy world, you need to remind people that they need Jesus

ILL:  Even a little incident in WWI that happened in the trenches on Christmas Day 1914, reminded men bent on killing each other, that Christmas is about peace.  It is a tragedy that it took 4 more years of senseless killing before peace on an international level was reached. 

Show:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KHoVBK2EVE  0:01-3:13 [Be sure to end the visual portion before 3:14 please.]

LOVE

We end our Nativity journey this afternoon with that one quality which sets Christianity apart from all other religions of the world.  That is so because our Lord Jesus Christ is so uniquely different from all other proclaimed “saviors” of this world.  It is the grace-filled LOVE of Jesus that has made the coming of Jesus such a pivotal event in human history. 

            We are told in that most famous of all verses in John 3 that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

            It was the love of God the Father sending God the Son that made the birth of Jesus all about love.

            It was the love of God the Son for a lost world that caused him to lay aside the heavenly glory he shared with the Father in order to robe himself with humanity, live a sinless life and die a cruel death, all for us!

            It is the love of God that has been poured out into our hearts by the free gift of the Holy Spirit (Rm. 5:5) that is to set every Christ-follower apart from every other person in the world. 

            And it is that same love of Christ that is to be the glue that holds us together as His followers as we obey His one great command to “love each other” as He has loved us (Jn. 15:12). 

            But that love didn’t stop with Jesus’ death.  Rather it exploded into human history and experience as the most powerful force for good the world has ever known.  Every corner of the world has been impacted by it.  Every kind of person has been redeemed by it.  And every person who willingly embraces the love of God in Christ will come to experience that it is a love that plays no favorites, that knows no greater force or power and knows no end. 

            Listen to the way God likes to talk about His love for you.  It is utterly baffling why so many in this world reject, run from and spurn the God who IS love.

Romans 8

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God talked about His kind of love in Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, that famous “love chapter” you may hear so often at weddings.  Just substitute the name of Jesus for “love” and you will see why His coming is all about love.

Love [Jesus] is patient, [Jesus] love is kind. It [Jesus] does not envy, it [he] does not boast, [he] it is not proud. It [he] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love [Jesus] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It [He] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  [Jesus] Love never fails.”

Ephesians 1:3-6

3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.4) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5) he 

predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6) to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 

Ephesians 3:17, 18

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Will you receive that love today?  Will you open your heart to Jesus afresh and be thankful? 

Let us thank Him for His gifts of HOPE, of JOY, of PEACE and of LOVE so long ago…and so very present today. 

[Pray]

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