December 5, 2021
Sunday, December 5, 2021
Welcome! Let’s pray and invite the Spirit to move in us today. Let us soften our hearts to the love of our Father.
Advent reading: Laurie and Doug will read today
As I pulled out my Christmas decorations this year, I saw a Merry Christmas face mask I bought last year. I packed it away-it’s washable– thinking surely we won’t need this by next Christmas but it’ll be a reminder of what our 2020 Christmas entailed. And yet here we are, in another Christmas season with the virus strong as ever with the variants popping up. Here we are still navigating life differently in many ways. 20 months later we are still wading through all of this.
20 months- is it any wonder many are growing weary, depressed, wavering in hope?
In these 20 months, we have suffered great losses of all kinds-some directly linked to covid and some just caught up in the whirlwind of this pandemic. Some loss has been physical and some are more emotional and spiritual based on how we have been affected, and how we have called upon our faith in these times.
For many, maybe even you with the loss you have felt, have wondered where is God in all of this? Why is this cloud of darkness upon us and when will it be lifted? Has He withdrawn His love from us/ from me? If He’s so loving, then why is this lingering as it is?
As we are in the Advent season and drawing closer to Christmas it’s really important for us to have the right understanding of God’s love. Because it is His love that sent Jesus to earth to be born of a woman, in the flesh, to grow up and walk this earth as a man, so we might see God Himself through Jesus. So we might encounter the very heart of God as we look to the character of Jesus. For He is the visible image of our invisible God. He is God in the flesh. God wanted all humanity, His creation, to see and know His heart and His divine purpose of salvation. He desires for all to be saved and for us to have a personal relationship with Him because of LOVE.
As Doug and Laurie read, John 3:16-17 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[ his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
This is a love that is like no other-it’s a love that makes a way in a sinful, broken world for salvation and redemption for all who believe in Jesus. It’s a love that is steadfast and abiding in the midst of our brokenness and it shines into all darkness around us. God’s purposes are not to remove all suffering in this life; there will be darkness and sorrow here on this earth because sin is present here.
If we get caught in questioning God’s love when trying and sorrowful times come, then we are trying to play God and tell Him how He should run things. God created the universe, we did not. God created mankind, we did not create God. It was mankind who chose to sin and God in His mercy and love, designed us to need a Savior, which He provided out of love. This is so He can get the glory and we cannot boast in our own greatness. Pride is sin and it brings great destruction in our lives when we let our hearts fill up with it. In His mercy, God created us to boast in Him, to depend on Him, and to glorify Him so our hearts remain humble, softened and filled with His love.
So let’s look again over these past 20 months. Where has God been? Where did we see and feel His love in the midst of this trying time?
He was there in the hospitals with the sick to bring them comfort and peace. He was and is there still with the medical staff working tirelessly reminding them of their great purpose and renewing hope as they need it-providing testimonies to encourage them when they are losing hope; He has spoken through written cards, phone calls, text messages, window visits, Zoom calls- He has been there letting His love flow through. He was there with surprise goody boxes and meals shared to remind people they are not alone. He was there in the prayers of people across the globe needing food and moving in the hearts of people here in the states to provide that food. He was there in the beauty of His creation in every season reminding all who look upon it, of His wonder, majesty, and mercies anew-that this season too will change. He is always there in His Word to speak His love and promises over us to give us strength, hope, and comfort as needed. He is here and in every church-continuing to speak His truth and hold His people together-providing shelter, security, community, and hope. He is there moving in our prayers, listening to the cries of our hearts, and ministering as only He can do.
He is there. His love remains in the darkest and messiest of days. His love is eternal and cannot be moved. This is why we hope in Jesus because He has shown us God’s unfailing love.
If you are here today and your understanding of God’s love has been distorted or clouded by the weight of all you are carrying, listen with fresh ears today. Let us have a clear understanding of God’s unfailing love for us as we prepare for Christmas and let us be thankful. A bitter heart brings death; a hopeful, grateful heart brings life.
Romans 8: 35-39 NLT
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do you hear this today? NOTHING can separate us from God’s love-nothing in this life or in our death can separate us from His love. His love is pure and abiding. So that means, even when life feels the heaviest and the days seem the darkest, His love is as active and strong as ever. Even when we can’t understand what He’s doing and we can’t feel His love, this tells us, His love is there, always at work for good.
- In Our Waiting But what about when it’s 20 months later and we’re still in this? Or 10 years, 20 years, or more, and that which we are hoping for haven’t come to fruition? Has God’s love changed or been removed because He’s not responding? Does He not care about our wants and hopes? Do they not matter to Him?
Oh yes, they matter, and yes He hears the cry of our hearts. We have to remember God sees all-from the beginning to the end of our lives here on earth and for all those we love. He knows our entire story. He knows the very best outcome for each of us to accomplish His purposes, bringing glory to His name and our holiness that God seeks with all His heart. We think we know what we want or need and we set a timeline as to when that should come about, as well as how it should come about.
When God doesn’t act in our timeline and according to our plan, we can make assumptions in our hurt and disappointment that God doesn’t care; or that He’s forgotten us.
If we start believing this, we begin to become disobedient. We can wrongly determine our obedience based on God’s responsiveness to our wants. Again, that is us as humans, trying to control God and tell Him what He needs to do. We might stop praying or involving Him in our lives and struggles. We might stop going to church or being involved in church. Maybe we just let a root of bitterness take hold in our heart towards God because we don’t like how He is or is not handling things. All of these actions are in disobedience and they are all rooted in the condition of our heart towards God.
Even in this, God’s love remains for us.
2 Timothy 2:13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.
We are subject to change based on our circumstances. God is always the same-even in our changing circumstances. His love remains. This should be a comfort to us. He is not us-who can change with the shifting wind. So we can always trust in Him.
Numbers 23:19 19 God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
When God speaks a promise, it is already done. This is how we believe and respond as if it’s already happened because it has! We don’t wonder if He will be faithful to you and me-we believe He is faithful because He cannot lie and He does not change. What He speaks, comes about.
So in our waiting, we do not become disobedient. Instead, we stand in His promises so He receives the glory!
I heard a song this past week that said, “In the waiting, You get the glory; in the healing, You get the glory; in the breaking, You get the glory and in the breakthrough, You get the glory!”
Do you hear that? In all of it, God gets the glory for what He brings about that only He can! As you trust in Him, does He not show up in that final hour to rescue you and provide a way out? In our waiting, we don’t turn our backs on God, we press into Him and proclaim His promises even louder, with greater faith in our hearts. Watch what He does for those who love Him.
Deuteronomy 7:9 9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.
In this long season, we are all walking together, in your difficult seasons you personally walk, may this be what we proclaim and believe:
Psalm 27:13-14 13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
There is purpose in the waiting, and there is always love in our waiting. We don’t need to understand it all to remain obedient and faithful, for we know He is ever faithful to us.
- In Our Hurting Why does a loving God allow us to feel such pain? Why does He let us grieve such sorrow in our hearts? Because we are made in His image. Do we forget the grief we as humans have caused our loving and faithful God? Look at all that has happened in history-does our God not grieve the rebellious who turn from Him or those who turn on their brother and sister? Does He not grieve when His Church is persecuted? Or when the very religious leaders who were teaching God’s law and studying it their whole lives, missed when the Messiah was right there in front of them? They would not believe it but called it blaspheme. Did He not grieve as He watched His own Son sentenced to a criminal’s death and die on the cross?
Yes to all of these. Our God and our Savior have grieved the sins of the world, just as we grieve in our hurting. I share this because, in His vast love, He understands our pain, our hurt, and our sorrow. He isn’t oblivious to it. He is acutely aware and He is right there with us, to tend to our wounds, to restore our brokenness, and to be a place of refuge. Look at these truths we must remember in our times of hurting. Our times of hurting are not times for us to draw away from God but to press into His love all the more, for He knows the condition of our heart and how to best care for us.
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Isaiah 43: 2-3 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
We can feel all alone in our suffering but we must remember we’re not. We never are. God is right there holding on to make sure we are not consumed by our trials. He says I am the Lord your God, your Savior.
We must also remember, any suffering we experience here is not for eternity. We must remember what we feel and experience here is temporary-for this is not our final home. We are here for a brief moment compared to the eternity with have with our Savior in heaven.
What did we read in Romans 8? Victory is ours through Christ!
So we who believe have hope knowing ALL things we lost will be restored again! All of it.
Because of divine and unfailing love-we have a promise that all will be made new, all will be made right in God’s kingdom and be in order again according to His purposes and all this hurting will come to an end.
Revelation 21:4 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
We know this is true because of all the prophecies already fulfilled that spoke of the coming Messiah, how and where He would be born and how He would die and be raised up. These all happened exactly as they were foretold hundreds and thousands of years prior to Jesus’ birth that we’ll be celebrating soon. As we already shared, God is not man that He should lie and He does not change. When He speaks, it is done.
This is why we hold on to hope because the Light always shines into our darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
- Overwhelming Victory is Ours!
Romans 8:37 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Victory is ours because of God’s love for us. We are loved wholly by our God always. Let us never forget this. His plan is for us to have victory in this life and for eternity through our Savior, Jesus Christ! This is God’s heart-that we believe in Jesus and all He is, and we stand in His promises looking ahead to the victory that God already knows is there. We choose to see that victory and believe it’s already done-because it is.
Therefore, no matter what life throws at us, let us remember God’s unfailing love for us, each one of us, that we can never be separated from it, that He is at work for the good of His people and will accomplish what He has promised. Let us look for His love in all seasons for it is surely active and abiding.
Hebrews 10:23 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
In knowing these truths and knowing of His love that can never be separated from us, let us humbly and gratefully follow this teaching in Hebrews 4:16.
Hebrews 4:16 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Conclusion: Let us stand in the promises of God and trust in His unfailing love. In the waiting and the hurting as we remain open to Him, God gets the glory. May we choose to see the victory in our battles God already sees. May we come boldly to God’s throne of grace and receive His mercy. May we look to Jesus and know we are loved beyond measure.
As we prepare for Christmas, let us ponder the depths of God’s love for us and the lengths He went to so we might know and walk in His love.
Let us pause a moment to give thanks to God for the love He has displayed in our lives, for the love that remains and always will be; for how He has held us up, for where He has shown mercy and comfort, for the Light that shines into darkness giving us hope to keep going and keep believing for what is to come. Let us pause to remember the love that was shown when Jesus willingly went to the cross with us in mind.
John 15:13 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
We will never know a greater love than the love of God, displayed through Jesus Christ, our Savior. We will never know a love more pure and true to hold on to. We are not deserving of such love-for each of us have turned away from God at some point, if even in our hearts, yet He freely and wholly gives us this love.
Today as we remember this love displayed so powerfully, let us also be mindful and thankful of the victory this love brings us through Christ. We have overwhelming victory through Christ, our Lord!
Let us pray:
Jesus You ask us to remember what You did on the cross for us, until You return. For each time we do, we are proclaiming Your death-a great act of love and sacrifice for us, so we might have new life and eternal victory through You. You overcame the grave and rose up to glory. So as You were raised, we also will be raised to be with You. We believe in You Jesus-our Messiah and Savior. We receive You today and always as our Lord and King. We thank You for Your steadfast love and care in our lives. We thank you for victory we have over every trial and glory that comes through our suffering.
By faith, we join together eating the bread, which is a symbol of Your body given for us, and we drink the juice that represents Your blood shed and poured out to atone for our sins and cleanse us. Your spotless blood purifies our hearts and makes us righteous before our Father. We can live in this freedom-the new creation we are in You Lord. Sin has no more power over us, thanks be to You. We are free to walk in Your love and the covenant of grace You ushered in with Your death and resurrection. Help us to live free in You Lord-free from bondage to sin, fear, anxiety. Thank You for this indescribable gift of life in You! We praise You Jesus and we commit to follow You and walk in obedience to Your ways, for they are good and lead us in the way to righteousness, peace and joy.
Announcements: Potluck-please join us! Caroling this evening-gather after 4, roll out 4:30, supper to follow in the Legion after 6. Take in the Dec newsletter.
Christmas Eve 4 pm.
Mission Offering for Dec- Constanza, DR, Kids Alive. Watch for newsletter coming in email.
Prayers: family in Reedsburg,
Final Blessing: 2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, 17 comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.