Christmas Advent, Faith, Spiritual Encouragement, Stories from Scripture, Uncategorized
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Simply Jesus, Day 2

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.”

These are the opening words to Isaiah 9, the ancient prophecy that inspired Handel’s Messiah. A few lines later we read, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” God’s answer to it all: Jesus.

But I read Isaiah 9:1 and my heart falls to the floor and I have one word: when?

A friend of mine works for our church as the missions contact. She vets all the ministry requests from outreach organizations and service groups and non-profits asking for our church to partner with them, all meeting valid needs and sharing the gospel to people in various places of distress and asking for help. She said recently that this Christmas it’s harder not to feel the weight of it. How can one be blithe and happy while everything’s “beginning to look a lot like Christmas” after reading first-hand accounts of murders and martyrdom in the middle east? Another friend of mine works for Habitat for Humanity. He is constantly considering homelessness in our community. For him it’s not a fleeting thought when he passes panhandlers on the corner. He carries the reality of homelessness in him all the time. He loses sleep.

We turn on the news. We turn it off again. We feel bound by a sense of helplessness. Sometimes our own sources of distress are so big we can’t see past them. We are trying, trying to win the part of the day, get to work, not yell at our kids, pay the bill before the water gets shut off. Forget being awesome at life or making a difference in the world. We’re trying to get by.

Where is the light that dispels the gloom of this world?

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulder, the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born, to us as son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s through and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that tim on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Inspiration: The Truth of God

The gloom Isaiah speaks of is a dangerous and distressing gloom, a darkness full of fear and punctuated by terror. Israel had fallen completely at the hands of the Assyrians, and Judah’s king, a wicked man named Ahaz, was making alliances with other kings rather than face God. They had disobeyed God, worshipped idols, made a moral and political and spiritual mess of things and they were living in the darkness of their own making. Isaiah, prophet to Judah, did speak of punishment, but also of great hope and redemption and salvation.

Israel’s defeated king was named Heshua. His name meant Joshua, Salvation, Jesus. Yet salvation did not come through him. Only defeat. Ahaz, king of the Hebrew people in the southern kingdom, called Judah, refused to follow Isaiah’s instruction to seek God. He sounded righteous when he declared, “I will not put the Lord to the test.” (Isaiah 7:12) Really, he was terrified. He wanted nothing to do with the Lord he failed to worship, the Lord capable of destroying what was left of Judah.

God graciously spared Judah, and held lovingly to the threads of a remnant people, because Jesus, the promised Light, would come through the line of David in the family of Judah. God promised immediate hope for Judah, but as is typical of bible prophecy, there was a greater promise, a grander plan to be completed later. In this dark season of terror and despair, to a people caught in the mire of the gloom on the brink of defeat God says:

He will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

He will meet every need of everyone. He will reign in justice. Violence and oppression will be a thing of history. Forever and everlasting peace.

We could use that hope, too.

and He will be called

Mission: Take Away

I pray in the dark to a God I cannot see. Sometimes my prayers are like sparks rising off the smallest flame, dying into darkness before they reach the sky. When? Hope ebbs and I feel gloom closing in.

Spokane weather made history and the national news in November when a freakish windstorm uprooted trees and power poles. A three-hour storm left 180,000 people without power, some of us for over a week. My sister never lost power. Her house was lit and warm and humming along as usual. One evening, after we’d had dinner (and showers!) there, I drove home to our cold, dark house. As I approached our part of town, the gloom of the darkness became palpable. The pervasive darkness enveloped all the buildings, landmarks, scenery and only a puny slice of a new moon hung in the treetops making driving home something like descending into Gollum’s cave.

We lit candles and ran our gas fireplace, a bit of light and warmth, and waited. We KNEW power would be restored. Line crews worked around the clock to ensure we’d have unlimited wattage flowing through our outlets any day. But as the days stacked up, the adventure of a power outage was long gone. We were tired of bumbling around in the gloom, charging our devices at coffee shops, cooking on the gas barbecue. And we waited for the power.

At last the zeal of the power company accomplished the task. In a week’s time we were flicking light switches and cooking on the stove again. Fully powered.

The zeal of the Lord, his commitment to redeeming creation, compels him to accomplish the coming advent of Jesus. Bible prophecy and fulfillment revealed in the Old and New Testaments shows us that God worked in the paradigm of his creation in order to do an extraordinary thing: give the world a baby, a child who would at last bring peace to the world. We look back into the word and find hope for the future.

The advent of the Coming King, the one we look forward to, is why we sing along with the Messiah chorus. Because we know that God’s great zeal for our redemption will never run out. He will stay true even when we feel despair or defeat.

Jesus is coming again. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this!

There will be no more gloom for those who are in distress.

Play: Have Fun

When I was a kid I wondered what Jesus’ full name was. Was he Jesus Christ Josephson or Jesus   Christ Immanuel? What was his first, middle and last name? I later learned it didn’t work like that in olden days. And I learned that the bible gives Jesus many names.

I love these Names of Jesus cards by All Our Days. Print them out and use them at dinnertime or devotion time or whenever you consider advent. All the names of Jesus meet human needs, offer hope, answer our deepest questions.

Names of Jesus Cards to Print from All Our Days

Love: Action

God uses surprisingly insignificant people to accomplish great things. He’s in the whispering wind and the blessing of babes. We see evidence of this over and over in Bible stories. Jesus was as small and helpless as anyone can be, yet God promised hope and light and and eternal kingdom of peace on the tiny shoulders of a baby.

Think small this Christmas. What little ways can you share great love? What little people need to be reminded of their value in God’s eyes?

Take a dollar amount, say $25 and together with your kids or grandkids, choose 5 different organizations to support. Even small amounts massed together can make a big difference. Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision both offer “little gifts” in their holiday catalogs.

Yes: Yes and Amen, A Prayer

Father in Heaven, Father of Heavenly Lights:

You hold the universe together. Your power keeps enormous galaxies of unimaginable scope swirling in their orderly fashion in space. Your favor rests on this small planet, a spinning orb placed just-so that life flourishes here. Your creation inspires awe. Yet we suffer in the gloom of sin. We see destruction and hate and disease. We face problems we feel too small to fix. We live with the dying. We need that wonderful counsel. We long for a prince who dispenses true peace. We want to rest in the arms of our everlasting father. We know you are mighty. Remind us of your presence. You intervened the course of humanity, shifted the trajectory stream when Jesus was born. Your Spirit moves us toward life; your Spirit breathes life where the heavy gloom of death invades. Lead us by your Light through the dark places. Help us Lord to live full in the power of your promise. Break our hearts with compassion for those in need. Help us leave judgement in your capable hands and use our hands for loving this world with your healing, hopeful, life-giving love. Renew our hope in your zeal for us. Renew our faith in a God who sees the distress and provides the only answer we all need: Jesus.

Yes, and Amen.

 

///

Friends–

Thank you for spending a bit of December with me! This is it — s.i.m.p.l.y. Jesus every day until Christmas: Scripture, Inspiration, Mission, Play, Love, Yes (and amen!). A little pause, a moment to recalibrate, a reminder of why we celebrate. The story of Jesus is truly awe-inspiring and eclipses any other feel-good aura of the season. Here the very word of God who spoke all matter into being becomes human in order to redeem his creation. Why? Why did God not wipe it all out and begin anew, with ‘Adam&Eve 2.o’ who would not choose sin and thereby condemn us all? Because, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” {Ephesians 2:10} Handiwork is the greek word poiema — poem…art…the song of his creative soul. He loves us too much. He wants to work it all out for our good.

Christmas is indeed a love story.

Today’s graphic is available as a printable file. If you want it, print it! Place it somewhere to remind you of the names of Jesus! Click HERE <—- to print!

and He will be called

The following are links to advent materials that I am using with my family, that I am using for inspiration for my writings this month. Fun printables, family devotions, etc. Enjoy and share! A happy Christmas to you!

Names of Jesus Cards to Print from All Our Days : http://allourdays.com/2012/12/names-of-jesus-advent-cards.html

Advent Reading Plan and Countdown Chain Craft from Kim Sorgius at http://www.notconsumed.com

Story Warren (I love this site) advent devotions and beautiful printable art ornaments.

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