Category Archives: Advent

25Dec/18

Celebrating Christmas

According to Wikipedia, Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.

But Christ has been lost in the mass of songs that tell of merriment, and rocking around Christmas trees.

Christ has been lost in the mass of tinsel and lights and trees that decorate our streets and homes

Christ has been lost in the mass of gifts that are bought, in the mass of money that is spent buying gifts that are expected to be bought.

Christ has been lost in the mass of seasonal films that warm the heart, that make you feel all Christmassy.

Christ has been lost in the mass of food that will be consumed as we eat and feast with family and friends

It seems that the mass, the excess, has become more important than Christ.

Our culture, especially here in the west, likes to focus on all the things that make Christmas special – the decorations, the tree, the gifts, the songs.  Maybe society does that because it does not want to listen to why Jesus came, and why His coming is worth celebrating.

But the reason why Jesus came is still the best news, the greatest news.   Christ came to a sinful people like us. He came to be the Saviour. To save us from our sins.  And He came and died on a cross to pay the price for our sin, so that if we believe and put our trust in what He has done, we can know forgiveness from our sin and be reconciled to God.

It is Christ-mas.   Christ is who we celebrate.  He is the one we ought to celebrate the most. 

As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9v15

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Where will our focus be this Christmas – will it be on the mass, on the excess?  Or will it be on the Christ. The Saviour.  

Our prayer is that each of us will reflect on why we really celebrate Christmas – because of the Christ who was born to save sinners like us. 

21Jan/17

Preparation

God is saying to prepare!

How did the wise men prepare?

Loved him simply because of who He is.  We need to be in that place of just loving him: not just because of what he has done (that’s still good), but also because of who He is!  They came to honour Him and bring gifts to Him.  We need to not keep asking him for things (which is still ok) but giving to him our worship; bringing our gift of worship to Him.

How did Mary prepare?

She was leaning on the word of God – be it unto me as the word of the Lord has said.

How did Simeon prepare?

Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  The spirit has spoken once and he was waiting on the Holy Spirit to speak again.  He was ‘tuned in’, living close to God.

How did Anna prepare?

Looking to the Lord – she was praying and fasting and looking to the Lord for what he was going to do

How did the Shepherds prepare?

Living oblivious to the preparations when suddenly God broke in.  We can’t live like that because we are not ignorant – we need to be living in expectancy

How did teachers of the law prepare?

Loopy.  They knew it was going to happen but they did not prepare for it.

 

31Dec/16

Jesus – King

Jesus is King.

3 things – where is He? Who is born? The King of the Jews.

Where is He?

For wise men: In Bethlehem. In a house. Bethlehem means house of bread. The bread of life was born in the house of bread.

Now: Jesus is ascended.  What is He doing?  

He is praying for you.  John 17: for our protection from the evil one by the power of His Name; for our sanctification by truth (make them holy); to make us one as the trinity is one; people that will believe through us.

He is providing for the church.  When He ascended He led captives in His train (Old Testament saints went to Sheol – a waiting place – He led them to heaven because heaven was now open) and gave gifts to men – apostles (move in authority); prophets (vision), evangelists (grow and gather), teachers (teach), pastors (care).

He is preparing eternity for you.  Going to prepare a place for us. Where He is, there He will take us.

Who is born?

Jesus was born.  Unto us He is born.  He’s not dead, because His government will know no end.

God was born. What difference does that make?  That God came to where we are. Christianity is unique because other religions try to get to God, but God came to us.  God could come to us with punishment and judgement but He comes with grace and mercy bringing gifts of His Holy Spirit.

King of the Jews

He was born King. Prince Charles, William and George were born to be King; but Jesus was born King.

He is the King of Creation – raven brought Elijiah bread (rather than eat it); rain stopped for 3 months, then rained for 3 months

He was King in the cradle

He was King on the cross. Pilate got it right. He’s on the cross not because He was a victim but by choice.

He is King in the clouds. As the bible says, we are almost in a cashless society and He is going to reign!  Reign over plant life – because deserts will bloom – over the animals for the lion will lie with the lamb.

Conclusion

Israel wanted a King.  God said He was King, and God let them have one but in God’s perfect timing, God sent Jesus – born King

Wise men said King of the Jews.  He was not their King, is He my King?

 

28Dec/16

How will you react to Jesus

This evening we’ve had readings concerning the Shepherds out in the fields watching their flocks by night, when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and told them a Saviour had been born. We’ve read of wise men from the east following a star looking for a King that had been born. And then we’ve also read that to us a child has been born who is called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

The Saviour, the King, the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace — these are all names given to Jesus and it’s is at this time of year that we remember and celebrate His birth.

The Shepherds on hearing the news of His birth, went immediately to find the child and when they went to Bethlehem to see this thing that the angels spoke about, they found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a manger. We are told that when the Shepherds had seen the child, they returned to their fields glorifying God for all the things they had seen and heard.

The wise men had to travel some distance after they saw the star, it took them some time, but when the wise men arrived at the house, they were overjoyed and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they bowed down and worshipped him, giving them the gifts they had brought.

The Shepherds and the Wise Men searched and found the child, they searched for and found Jesus.

For the shepherds it was a wow moment, they found Him almost in an instant – they heard about Him, they found Him and the glorified God telling others about Him. Instantly changed because they found and saw the Saviour of the world – their Saviour – come to save people like them.

For the wise men, it was after careful study – they saw the star, they researched it, came to understand it was a sign that the King of the Jews had been born, they went on a journey looking for that King and when they found Him, when their search was over, they were overjoyed and they worshipped Him.

For many people finding Jesus is like that. Some people are like the Shepherds, they hear about Jesus, that He is their Saviour, and are instantly drawn to Him, receive Him, telling everyone they can and glorify God. For others, they are like the Wise men, studying, going on a journey to see if Jesus really is who He says He is, and when then find that He is, they are overjoyed and worship Him.

The effect is the same, when we find Jesus, it causes us to be overjoyed, to worship Him and to glorify Him – and He becomes our Saviour and He becomes our King.

But it is not just the reaction of the Shepherds and the wise men that we read about tonight.

The shepherds told everyone what they had seen and heard, and what we read is that everyone who heard them were amazed.

We also read about Herod when the wise men called in at Jerusalem and asked, where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? Herod on hearing the news was concerned, after all He was king, so who is this new king that has been born… His advisors tell him about the prophecy concerning Bethlehem, so Herod sends them on their way to find the new king and let him know where He is once they find Him.

Now we read that the wise men did not return to Herod, and if we were to read on in that passage we would also read that Joseph was told in a dream to get away to Egypt ASAP because when Herod realised that the wise men were not returning, Herod went mental and ordered all boys in Bethlehem 2 years old and under to be killed.

The people the Shepherds told did not find Jesus, but they smiled and were amazed at what had happened to the Shepherds. They were pleased for the shepherds. Herod was sceptical about Jesus, but when things did not go his way regarding Jesus, he had an altogether different kind of reaction to Jesus.

And the question I want to ask tonight is – how are you going to react to the news about Jesus.

The news about Jesus is that He came from heaven above, supernaturally conceived by God in a woman who was a virgin. He was born fully man and fully God. He grew as we do, but never sinned – never did anything wrong. He worked as a carpenter then at the age of 30 went about preaching, healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, setting captives free until he was betrayed, crucified on a cross, died and was buried and then 3 days later was raised to life. After been seen by loads of people over a 40 day period, ascended to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of God.

He came as Saviour – the saviour of the world – on that cross he became sin for you and for me – so that if I accept that I have sinned against God and if believe that it was for my sin He died, that it was my punishment he took for my sin, then I can ask Him to forgive me, to come into my life and save me from the wrath of God that I deserved.

How do we react to that news tonight? Because the news of Jesus still causes a reaction today.

Will you react like the Shepherds – you’ve heard the news and you instantly get it, and want to receive it. You realise Jesus came for you and you can receive Him now.

Are you like those to whom the Shepherds spoke – do you simply smile and say that’s so great for you, but it’s not for me.

Are you like the Wise Men – you’ve heard the news and you want to find out more. Or maybe you have been searching, maybe searching in the wrong places, and now that you understand why Jesus came and what He has done, you want to accept who He is and welcome Him into your life.

Or are you like Herod – Think that you are better off yourself – I’m the king, I don’t need someone to rule my life – especially not God. Or maybe, like Herod, you threw something out there to God, like a test, but then when things didn’t go your way, you became angry at God. Maybe you hurt people in your anger.

Let me tell you tonight, just like we heard in the play – it may be 2015, but Jesus is still the same. He still presents Himself to us as Saviour, as King, as the Wonderful Counsellor, as the Mighty God, as the Everlasting Father and as the Prince of Peace. He presents Himself to us again because He loves each one of us unconditionally – no matter who we are or what we have done – He still loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.

He does not want us to react like those to whom the shepherds spoke, he does not want us to react like Herod. He longs for us to react like the shepherds or like the wise men because it does not matter if this is the first time you’ve heard the news or if you’ve heard it time after time after time. He longs for you to find him to accept him into your life. To realise he is who he said he is because when you receive him it causes us to be overjoyed, to worship him and to glorify God.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

I pray that will be your experience tonight.

28Dec/16

Waiting

Waiting builds suspense, there is something about long pauses that builds anticipation. The X-factor does this really well……. The winner of the X-factor 2015 is……. There is that music and the heart beat that builds the excitement of who the winner will be.

But waiting can also be annoying, especially if you’re needing to get home by 1pm today and the preacher is taking a long time to say his sentences and you are sitting there thinking, come on man, get on with it!

There are things that we are good at waiting for, and other things we are not. So some of the things I am not good at waiting for are things like waiting in a queue and the person getting served ahead is just taking an age and I’m in a hurry! But I can also be good a waiting in a queue, like for going on a ride at Disneyland or some other theme park.

I suppose it depends what we are waiting for and whether we are in a hurry or not.

When we look around us, we are encouraged not to wait – we are encouraged to buy now while stocks last. Hurry before it’s too late. There is the advert from Amazon that says you can get anything you want or need next day. Even hospital waiting times are trying to get quicker.

Life seems to be faster. Life seems to be about less time to wait.

Now there are only 19 days until Christmas and we are in the period of Advent. Advent means the coming or arrival of something or someone that is important or worthy of note.

For children the period of Advent means waiting for the coming or arrival of Santa. For chocoholics the period of Advent is waiting for that larger chocolate on Day 24 of the advent calendar. For Star Wars fans, the period of Advent is waiting for the fact that Christmas comes 1 week early when Star Wars Episode 7 is released.

But for many people the period of Advent can be waiting until Christmas is over – for many it can’t come soon enough because this time of year can be hard for many people and it’s always good to remember that, to look around us and see needs that can be met.

Now for Christians, this period of Advent reminds us that Christ was born. That Christ was born of the virgin Mary, in Bethlehem, in a stable and He would be the saviour of the world.

And for many around at that time, there was a waiting for His arrival. There were people eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come. There were the angels on the hillside who were so excited at the arrival of Jesus that they burst into the sky in front of shepherds – why? because they had been waiting for it. There was Simeon and Anna at the temple, who had been waiting for the Messiah to come and when they saw Him with their own eyes, they were filled with with joy. The Lord has come!

And in the run up to Christmas, in this period of advent, we celebrate His coming to this earth. That is the great message of Christmas! Where Jesus became fully man and fully God. He became Emmanuel, God with us and He became the way by which we might receive salvation. And it’s right and it’s good to remember His coming to this earth for you and I and all that it means for us today.

But if Advent means the coming or arrival of something or someone that is important or worthy of note, then what does this period of Advent hold for Christians… after all we are not waiting for the birth of Jesus – He has already come – He came over 2000 years ago. It’s not necessarily something we only celebrate once a year, but Jesus coming to this earth is something that we can celebrate every day.

We will hear the song “I wish it could be Christmas every day” goodness knows how many times we’ll hear it until we get sick of it until another year comes around, but with Jesus, we can celebrate him every day and never grow tired of it. He has come to us our Lord Emmanuel.

Now one of the phrases that we hear when we read the Christmas story that we don’t think about every day is that Jesus came in the fullness of time. In the fullness of time, or when the time has fully come.

Now I like that phrase and I use that phrase from time to time. It usually revolves around some job that needs to be done but in my head it’s some distance from being achieved, so it will get done in the fullness of time. To be honest, I use it as an excuse not to do the job soon, but one day, some time, eventually, maybe… it’s a non commital phrase.

However that’s not the meaning of that phrase. It is statement that indicates that it’s not just some day in the future, but it is a predetermined, specific time. not an accident or a coincidence— as Galatians 4:4 says “But when the time had fully come, God sent His son,born of a woman, born under law to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons”

And if this phrase in the fullness of time means anything it means that waiting does have an end point because Jesus did come in the fullness of time. Jesus came into this world at exactly the right time.

Let’s look at the context

1. The Roman Empire was at the zenith of its power. Peace was established from Britain to the borders of India. That meant that citizens could travel freely, unrestricted by national or political barriers.

2. Roads reached throughout the Empire. The way was prepared for messengers of Christ to take the Gospel everywhere.

3. Greek had become the universal language of the Roman world. The Old Testament had been translated into Greek from Hebrew some 250 years earlier. Greek was the language of commerce. The structure of Greek was perfectly suited to communicate the Gospel in an accurate way due to its wide vocabulary and verb forms.

4. Greek philosophy prepared the minds of the masses. It was a common thing for people to meet together to discuss religious themes—the meaning and purpose of life, immortality, the nature of man, righteousness, and salvation.

5. A longing for something better existed in many hearts. People were disillusioned and desperate. Pagan religion was bankrupt. Philosophers only raised questions, but never gave answers. Crime was at an all-time high. Respect was lacking. Sin and corruption abounded. Disease, the breakup of the family, It was truly a time of moral and spiritual darkness. Large numbers of Gentiles throughout the Empire began to turn to the Hebrew faith in search of truth and hope because They heard about a Messiah who was to come that would bring deliverance and establish a kingdom that would be everlasting and righteous.

6. The prophetic timetable was in place. Palestine seethed with expectation of a great prophetic event.

God’s timing was perfect. Jesus came into the world at just at the right time.

But not only that, through our own experience looking back we can see God coming into our situations at just at the right time. In the fullness of time. I look at my own life and in hindsight I can see His hand bringing about things in my life at just the right time.

God’s timing is perfect. It was perfect for His first advent, it has been perfect in our lives, so then we have to ask ourselves – why will His timing not be perfect in the future?

And this is where the waiting comes in, and specifically waiting for God. Because while we may not be waiting for his first advent, we are waiting. We are waiting. We are waiting for his coming again. We are waiting for Him to come to planet earth once more and this time it will not be meek and quietly in a stable, but in power and might and every eye will see and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

But not only that, there will be situations that we have been praying to the Lord for – we are waiting – waiting for healing, waiting for salvation of souls, waiting for direction, waiting for freedom from bondage, waiting, waiting, waiting.

And how are we waiting – is it building frustration because we are in a hurry for something to happen? How do we wait for God?

Well 3 ways:

1. Wait Patiently.

The first way that we wait for Christ is: We wait patiently. The hardest part of waiting is waiting. Waiting involves time, and we don’t know when our waiting will be over. If we could wait a minute or two it would be one thing, but it often involves a great deal of time.

Patience is fruit of the Spirit. It is a spiritual quality that God wants us to develop.

But as we have said already, often we are irritated if something doesn’t happen immediately, and we become impatient and try and move things along a bit, take some control, take matters into our own hands. God is looking for us to wait patiently, but neither is waiting is not a static state. It’s not sitting there in your armchair with you’re arms spread out saying, ok, I’m waiting. Anytime you’re ready, I’m waiting.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Romans 8:24 from The Message say this: “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting”.

That’s lovely isn’t it? God is creating his life within us, and we must wait for it to come to full term.

The longer we wait, the more we hear and learn about Him for whom we are waiting. Waiting is a time when God is working behind the scenes, and the primary focus of his work is on us.

Waiting needs patience, patience and trust in God’s timing, allowing him to work in us while we wait.

2. Wait expectantly

The second way in which we are to wait is: We wait expectantly.

To use the example of the expectant mother again, who sometimes thinks, “Is this baby ever going to come?”, especially if she is past her due date. But all you have to do is look at her and you know that it is impossible for the baby not to come.

And sometimes waiting patiently and waiting expectantly seem in conflict with each other but they are not..

As we’ve said Waiting does not mean just sitting down and doing nothing. Wile we wait not only are we allowing God to work in us but we are also watching and looking for God to fulfill his promise. We are expectant. Is this the day Lord? You have to believe he is going to do it. Jim sweet example.

As I said earlier It is possible to get ahead of God when we try to work things out ourselves (when we become impatient), but it is also possible that we could miss what he is doing because we are just waiting without expecting God to really come through.

Elaborate. Sometimes easier to wait patiently than it is to wait expectantly.

3. Wait faithfully

The third way in which we are to wait for God is: We wait faithfully.

To be faithful means to be full of faith — faith full — faith that completely trusts and depends on God.

It is a faith that keeps doing the right thing even when the waiting becomes long. Waiting in faithful obedience is essential in our walk with God. We have to keep on keeping on.

Our christian life is like a race, and the race we are in is a long one, and it calls for endurance not speed. It’s not how you begin the race, but how you finish that counts.

As Rev 3:10 says, “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints”.
Conclusion

So in conclusion, this period of advent reminds us that Jesus came, and we celebrate this with all of our hearts – the wonder of His coming. God coming to mankind, that mankind may come to God.

But while we can celebrate this fact every day, for every day God is with us, during this advent time we can remember that Jesus came in the fullness of time. At just the right time.

And this reminds you and I, while we wait, while we wait for the fullness of time for God to bring out something we are waiting for, the challenge is how are we waiting.

Are you waiting with patience.
Are you waiting expectantly.
Are you waiting living in faithfulness to God whether that faithfulness seems to be noticed and rewarded or not.

Maybe this morning you’ve become impatient in waiting. You’re getting frustrated with a situation that does not seem to be changing. Well Jesus is here and He asks you this morning to wait patiently. Allow this time of waiting to hear and learn more of Him, to bring about in you that which He desires to bring about in you.

Maybe this morning you’ve become discouraged in waiting. You’re thinking it’s never gonna happen. Well Jesus is here and He asks you this morning to wait expectantly. Believe again and look for Him to come through, to fulfil His promise to you.

Maybe this morning you’ve simply lost that faithful trust in God. You’re not fully in the race, you’re getting off the track, you’re not doing the right thing every day. Some days are faithful, some days are not. Well Jesus is here and He asks you this morning to wait faithfully. To walk in obedience to Him.

And this morning, if that’s you, what I want to do is encourage you because there is hope, because Jesus is once more saying, come to me. And there is one song and 1 verse I believe God wants to deposit in your life today in respect of waiting. In waiting for that fullness of time moment that will happen at just the right time.

The song is this.
Your tears will dry, your heart will mend, your scars will heal and you will dance again
and of His kingdom there will be no end, for Christ our King is coming back again!

And the verse is this
Isaiah 40v31 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”

Be encouraged this morning, not only by celebrating his first advent and all that it means for us, but be encouraged to wait patiently, to wait expectantly and to wait faithfully. For in the fullness of time Christ came, and in the fullness of time He is coming again! His promise is true.