River South important Schedule change
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6
Babies are born everyday. Lots of them. About 350,000 babies are born each day on this earth. During the time it takes you to read this, more than 500 babies will join the human race. Nothing could have been more natural, even normal, about the birth of a baby boy a couple thousand years ago in the village of Bethlehem to a woman named Mary. Thousands of babies were born that same day in towns all across the globe.
And yet, the birth of Jesus was totally different. This week, more than two thousand years later, we are still celebrating it. This birth would change the course of history. A king was being born, taking His first earthly breath, but, he wasn’t from this world. This baby Jesus was God Himself. God was coming to be with us! The King of kings and Lord of lords, the God who exists in all places at all times, who has existed in all time, eternity past and future, this God stepped into a specific time in history and to a specific place on this planet. This birth would change everything!
My kids asked me recently which holiday is my favorite. Christmas, of course. It’s not just decorated trees, presents, cold weather, and holiday blend coffee that make it so great. I love those things but that’s not what makes Christmas so special. During this season we celebrate God Himself coming to be with us, taking on flesh and stepping into our reality. Our lives can never be the same knowing that the creator of this universe, our creator, has stepped into a specific moment and place in history to be with us.
What’s so amazing about this story, what God was setting in motion on that day in Bethlehem, is that God is STILL with us! Some of Jesus’ last words on this earth were to reassure the disciples that He is with them, FOREVER. Matthew 28:20b "And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus is with you, always, till the very end! We don’t have to ever be alone. The Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace wants to BE WITH YOU FOREVER! Let Him be what you fix the focus of your celebration and adoration this holiday season! He’s with you!
As we prepare to worship tomorrow and celebrate the final week of Advent, the song “Is He Worthy” by Andrew Peterson has been on replay in my mind. I go to sleep with the words ringing in my ears and wake up to it resounding. It speaks so profoundly of what the whole world is yearning for; the coming King. (Romans 8)
Advent reminds us each week of the the hope, peace, love and joy that we find in Jesus’s coming at his birth, in our lives today and what we can look forward to in the future when He makes all things new. This is so important not to miss.
At Christmas, it’s easy to focus on the birth of the Messiah and to reflect on what it means to have a relationship with Jesus now, and rightly so. It’s amazing, beautiful and true! But how often during this season do we look ahead to Jesus’ return?
I’ve had several moments this past month that have reminded me of how broken our world is. Our celebration of Advent has helped me overcome what could have easily become despair. It has been a healthy reminder of Jesus life, death and resurrection. It’s given me many visual reminders of His presence with me now, and opportunities to lean into that relationship. But it has also grounded me in the knowledge that Jesus is coming again, and he’s going to fix what is broken. (Revelation 21:5)
I love this. I need to be reminded of this. We all do. And it’s not just a future hope. He’s invited us to be a part of this now by giving us the ministry of reconciliation. As we love one another in Christ and extend that love to the world around us, God’s kingdom is advancing. That is good news! (John 13:34-35, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
“Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is.”
Tomorrow, and Monday as we gather with family for our Christmas Eve services, let’s celebrate and remember.
Let’s celebrate the birth of hope.
Let’s allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts and minds.
Let’s remember the good news of great joy that is for all people and express that joy in worship.
Let’s remember how great the love is that the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called sons and daughters of God, and the Son he gave so that we might bear that name.
And, let’s not forget that a day is coming soon where everything that is broken will be made new by the baby in the manger, who bore the nails, who defeated death and who has promised to return.
“Is He Worthy? He is!”
This was my response upon learning that my parents and sister broke a 40-year tradition of eating Thanksgiving dinner together this year. The reason? Two weeks before the holiday, my sister suggested chili as the main dish in lieu of turkey. This suggestion left my parents befuddled. Depending on whose account of the conversation you are presently enduring, potato salad made the chopping block too. In the end, the proposed menu changes and ensuing arguments angered them all, and the decision was made to spend Thanksgiving apart. They live across the street from one another.
Needless to say, holidays with extended family can be tricky. They may be loaded with expectations or riddled with baggage. Minor annoyances become major offenses when unforgiveness festers from years of unresolved conflict. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sin.” Love covered a multitude of sin in no greater way than at the cross. While we were still sinners, Christ did for us (Romans 5:8). This was a demonstration of God’s love; we are, above all, deeply loved by Him. Because we have been sacrificially loved and radically forgiven, we have the ability to cover a multitude of sin with our love.
No doubt, there will be opportunities this holiday season to be annoyed, offended, and sinned against. Someone may frustrate, embarrass, or hurt you. Here are a few tips to prepare you for the battle. First, it helps me to remember that I, too, relationally sin against other people, so I never have high ground on which to elevate myself. This truth humbles me when I believe it. Second, it helps to anticipate opportunities to forgive and extend grace. If I expect disappointment, I’m not surprised by it. I’m better prepared to avoid defensiveness and disarm potential conflict if I’m prepared for battle. Three, because of Christ in me, I desire to love others well independent of their care for me, and the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me. If this power can raise the dead, I trust it can manage to love a disagreeable family member.
Jesus often found himself in a mixed bag of company while celebrating festivals and holidays. You will too. May He give us eyes to see, hearts to feel, and courage to move toward others this Christmas with love!
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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)
Looking forward to worship tomorrow! We're singing a new song to open the service, so use the YouTube playlist above to listen up, and come ready to sing!
"Great Things" by Phil Wickham
"No Wonder" by River Valley Worship
"Holy, Holy, Holy (Jesus Reigns)" by Highlands Worship
"Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin
Looking forward to worship tomorrow at Rivertree! We're introducing a great new song called "Hope Has a Name" from River Valley Worship. Use the playlist above to prepare for worship, and come ready to sing!
"Unstoppable God" from Wake Up the Wonder by Elevation Worship
"Love On the Line" from Open Heaven/River Wild by Hillsong Worship
"Hope Has a Name" from Million Lifetimes by River Valley Worship
"Your Great Name" from Love Revolution by Natalie Grant
Here's what we'll be singing this Sunday, April 29 in worship at Rivertree and Rivertree South. Use the YouTube playlist above to begin worshiping through the songs, and come ready to sing this Sunday!
"Majestic" by Lincoln Brewster
"Glorious Day" by Passion
"God With Us" by All Sons and Daughters
"O Come To the Altar" by Elevation Worship