Hope is Born – New Beginnings

Hope is Born – New Beginnings

Last week we celebrated Christmas, and tonight we will ring in the New Year!

Some of you may have already taken down the decorations and put them away. Some of you will wait until later, in January. And then there is me. I may have been known to take mine down a bit later than the average person!

Christmas may be over, but it is not the end, it was actually the beginning.

Let’s take a look back for a moment at the beginning of beginnings so that I can explain what I mean.

From the beginning, God had a plan. On the first day of creation, God spoke light into the darkness! After creation, the earth was full of God’s peace, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God’s plan. The world was made for man with everything we could ever need or want to live joyfully in the presence of our Creator. We would worship God by loving Him and loving one another forever. The angels were also there at creation, and they shouted for joy! (Job 38:4,7)

But one day, Adam and Eve rejected God’s rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as “the Fall.” Their choice affected all of us. The result of rejecting God’s authority over us is that we are dead spiritually and will die physically.

Thankfully, even though our Creator hates our sin, and we deserve death, there is good news! God loves you and has a plan for you. We are a part of His master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing sinners.

The first Christmas day changed the world. On that day, hope was born! God tucked Himself up under the heart of a young virgin in the form of a baby. This baby was Jesus, God Himself. He came to renew the world and restore His people. Light stepped into the darkness, and that Light continues to cover the darkness today!

On this day, everything changed! An angel delivered to shepherds, just outside of Bethlehem, the message of the long-awaited Messiah’s birth.

When the first angel finished the message, the sky exploded, and the angelic choir sang praises to God and glorified His name once again! They first sang at creation, and now they are singing at the beginning of the new creation.

God had a plan from the beginning. The angels and shepherds were part of executing that plan, and so are we! The angel brought the message of redemption to the shepherds, who shared it with everyone they saw. We, too, have been given the gospel to share with those God brings into our lives.

The angel’s message reminds us that everything God does is because of His great love for people. God knew that the best gift He could give us would not fit in a box wrapped in colored paper. The greatest gift He could give us is unconditional love. The greatest need people have is unconditional love. Only God alone could do that. But first, there was a barrier between God and us that needed to be removed. It was a barrier created by our own sin and rebellion.

God showed us how much He loves the world by giving His most priceless gift – His only Son – so that that we may have a new life, eternal life, life from now to forever. Christ overcame the sin that separates us from God. Jesus is the gift! Gifts, by definition, are received, not earned. A person receives it by believing and trusting in Christ. When we receive Jesus Christ, we become children of God (John 1:12-13).

God’s purpose in sending His Son is salvation, not condemnation. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23, 32) God’s greatest desire is that everyone would be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)

It was because of love that God created man in the first place. Why? Because love needs people to love! In other words, love always requires tangible expression. Because of this love, God put a plan in place to rescue us from the destructive path we chose. Love sent Jesus into our world. Hope was born.

Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year.

The days following Christmas, with all the lights of the season still shining around us, is an excellent time to share the gospel. Use the coming New Year celebrations to open conversations about New Year plans. A discussion of New Year resolutions can lead to gospel sharing opportunities. We are called to love God, and because we do, we will love people. The best gift we can give those God puts in our path is the gift of His Son so that they too can be reconciled to God and have a new beginning and eternal life. Loving God and loving people should define our entire life.

So far, we’ve seen two occasions where the angels gathered to sing praises and glory to God. The first was at creation and then again at the new creation. Jesus came into the world He created to restore us to God, our Creator. Someday we will sing our song of praise in the throne room of heaven (Revelation 5). And as we live in the meantime, we know that angelic praise teams are singing! “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

There is a lot of hatred in this world. People are angry, hurting, and desperate for real love. If we are called to be God’s hands and feet, leading people to reconciliation with Him, then love is our most powerful tool. In this new year, don’t just say you love someone; prove it!

The Bethlehem Candle – 2nd Candle of Advent

The Bethlehem Candle – 2nd Candle of Advent

The first candle of Advent is the Prophet’s candle or the Hope candle and it always focuses our hearts on the hope of the first Advent promised by the prophets. In this post, we have chosen to cover the Bethlehem candle or the Peace candle as the second candle of Advent.

The remaining three candles of Advent may deal with the various parts of the Advent story. They may vary from church to church or even from year to year. The sequence for the remaining three Sundays might Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels. Or Love, Joy, Peace. No matter what sequence is used, the Scripture reading, prayers, lighting of the candles, the participation of worshipers in the service, all focus on unfolding the story of redemption through God’s grace in the birth of Jesus.

I have chosen to go the route of Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels.

The second candle, the Bethlehem candle represents peace. It symbolizes the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child.  Bethlehem is a story about a humble couple on an unwanted journey, at an inconvenient time, to visit a tiny insignificant town.

Augustus Caesar was ruling and he called for a census to be taken, but God was in charge, for He used Caesar’s edict to move Mary and Joseph eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill His Word. Even though there was no room for Mary and Joseph God had orchestrated these events. Mary and Joseph had to leave Nazareth so that they could register in Bethlehem and the Scriptures (Micah 5:2-5) be fulfilled.

When Mary said “May it be done to me according to Your word.” (Luke 1:38), it meant that from then on, her life would be a part of the fulfillment of divine prophecy. God had promised that the Savior would be a Jew, from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, the city of David. All of this occurred just as the Scriptures said, and Caesar unknowingly played an important part.

As we draw nearer to the birth of Jesus, we begin to see just how specific God was about giving His people “directions” to the main event! In Micah 5, we read a prophecy that occurred 735 years before the birth of Christ and yet it’s as specific as if it were spoken right before! When the magi arrive at Herod’s residence, they explain to the king that Jesus is supposed to be born in Bethlehem by quoting these very Scriptures. God did exactly what He said He would do!

Micah tells us several things. He tells us where the Messiah will be born, that He will come from a tribe of Judah, He will rule in Israel, Jesus is eternal and divine but will rule on earth and He will be a shepherd to His people. This One will be our peace.

Bethlehem was the smallest clan of Judah. It is a very insignificant town just outside of Jerusalem. Yet God did not choose Jerusalem for the birthplace of the Messiah. God loved the world so much that He chose, a tiny insignificant town as the location for the birth of the one who literally changed the world. This is the first of many reminders that God loves even the insignificant of the world, and in fact, demonstrates this several times in the weeks to come leading up to the Messiah’s birth.

So my question is this What about you? Don’t you want peace this Christmas? Jesus is our Peace! In the busyness of the season will you make room for Christ, or will you miss it? I can’t help but think of the Inn Keeper, would he have given up his room had he known who needed it?

Scripture Reading:

Luke 2:1–7
Matthew 2:1–2,9-11
Micah 5:2–5
Malachi 3:1–4
Matthew 2:1–2,9-11
Luke 1:68–79
Mark 1:1-3
Matthew 3:1-6

Read the words to this familiar Christmas hymn.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

If you have not done so already won’t you ask the Christ child to enter in and be born in you today?

If He has already entered in, begin to prepare your hearts to celebrate His birth in the upcoming weeks. You have “the One who is our Peace” dwelling within – May you walk in His Peace this Christmas season.

Pin It on Pinterest