Advent - Week Three - Joy

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Psalm 30:3-5
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, buy joy comes with the morning.”

I can remember years ago as a small child the eagerness awaiting December 25th. Oh the excitement of that cold morning with fog on the windows and eyes wide open from a sleepless night! I remember waking my parents too early in the morning only to have them send me back to bed.  After the 3rd time, they surrendered to my demands. I briskly walked to the living room where presents lay nestled underneath the tree. After every box was opened and trash glazed the floor, I remember that the crescendo was replaced by an emptiness and a hunger for more. The scooter I got lasted 6 months, maybe less. My joy over those gifts was very brief. I wouldn't even call it joy - it was more temporal happiness. That scooter rusted, the handlebars broke, the wheels wore down; it faded away. 

 

This Christmas season our affections are being attacked by what the culture says we need: more and more and more. It's literally singing, "me, Me, ME, MEEEE!" - the very chorus of our nature. 

 

Christian, the question we must ask ourselves is this, Is Jesus Worthy? Is He more worthy than the treasures of this world? If you profess and believe that He is worthy, then the Joy He gives is a reflection of his nature. Never fading. Never diminishing. This joy isn't like what I experienced with the scooter that was trashed after 6 months. Joy in Christ is His strength on our behalf that gets us through our darkest moments, our deepest pain, and our worst sufferings. Jesus promises joy that transcends time, past and present, and gives us eagerness to look forward to our future hope with Him. 

 

Look to Jesus. He is our greatest Joy. 

 

A prayer of Advent 

 “O Lord, our lives are filled with sin.

We forget our neighbors’ needs and

do not love you above all else.

We need a Savior. 

Help us to see the finite pleasure of what the world offers

and the infinite pleasure in Jesus.

Spirit, help us to be thoughtful and courageous

in preparing Christ room in our hearts this advent season.

O come, O come, Savior of the World. Amen.”

Advent - Week Two - Peace

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Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  - Romans 5:1

This week of Advent we celebrate the peace of Christ - past, present and future.  

We remember the peaceful Bethlehem night when unbeknownst to the world at large the King of Glory was born in a stable.

We rejoice in the peace we have in knowing and being known by that same King, Jesus.

We look forward to the promise of eternal peace when Jesus returns, making all things new.

That paints a beautiful picture, doesn’t it?  Does your Christmas look like that?  Feel like that?

I know for most the Christmas season can be downright chaotic, and for others, it is anything but peaceful.  In fact, for some, it is a constant reminder of something broken.  Something painful.  Something not right.


Did that lift your spirits?  


Don’t get me wrong.  I looooove Christmas!  Lights, trees, singing, presents, food, family… all of it.


Advent, however, is something different.  Advent reminds us that it’s more than just a day that we celebrate.  It’s a season of remembrance.  A prolonged opportunity to reflect on different aspects of the Gospel (Hope, Peace, Joy, Love - found in Jesus).  


As we immerse ourselves in the goodness of God displayed in the coming King the chaos, the hurt and the pain are transcended by the peace we have in Jesus.  The reality is this world is broken, but for the believer, Jesus has overcome the world.  


“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  - John 16:33


Jesus has entered in to our brokenness, reconciled us to the Father and given us new life.  


New hope.  


Real peace.


For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  - Colossians 1:19-20.


So, even if Christmas makes you crazy, get’s your blood pressure up or sends you into a spiral of despair, would you consider Advent?  Could you pause for a moment each week leading up to this holiday, and reflect on Jesus?  Savor the Gospel.  Be still.  Experience peace.


This is Advent.

Advent - Week One - Hope

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“The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee to-night.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem

When we say, “I hope so” we do not usually mean that same thing as the New Testament does. We may be hoping for a white Christmas, even though the weatherman is predicting “sunny and cold with occasional showers.” This is not hope but wishful thinking.

What then is hope? Imagine a child catching a glimpse of his father sneaking something into the house - something that is difficult to carry and has two big wheels. If later you were to ask the child, “What are you hoping for this Christmas,” he would reply with a big grin, “I am hoping for a new bicycle!” That is hope in the biblical sense. It is being sure that you will receive something you don’t yet have. Someone who “hopes all things,” is not a glass-half full kind of person who is always hoping for the best, but believes the promises of God and is waiting for them to be fulfilled - no matter what.

Hope becomes the lens through which you view everything. Hope describes an underlying confidence that God will be with us and bless us just as He has promised, even when life is at its worst. Christian hope allows us to look at difficult experiences and hard times and call them what they are, but the coming promises of God shape our present experience. As Paul writes, we are “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8).  If the end is heaven, then the end shapes the means.

The incarnation, the birth of the Christ-child, is the ultimate “yes” to the promises of God.  First, because it means that God has kept his oldest promise, recorded in Genesis 3:15. God would make enemies of the offspring of Eve and the serpent and that the serpent would strike his heel but the serpent’s head would be crushed. At a cost, the Son would defeat the serpent. The incarnation reveals not only the longest standing promise, but also the costliest. Keeping the promise would mean the Son would have to suffer and die so that forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life could be offered. Romans 8:32 says that “He who did not spare his Son but gave him up for us all.”  Paul draws the logical conclusion; since this is the case, we can be sure God will withhold nothing from us that is for our ultimate good.  

We can have hope because God kept his biggest, oldest, and costliest promises when love came down at Christmas.  


Reflection

What difference will the certain hope of heaven, and a God who will give us all we need, change how you live and who you love this week?

(excerpt from Sinclair B. Ferguson’s Love Came Down At Christmas)

Thank you, Rivertree!

Good news! Great joy! The Gospel and shoebox gifts will go to 232 children around the world this year thanks to your kindness and generosity. Please join us in prayer for the children who will open these shoeboxes.