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JESUS IS OUR HOPE

In his name the nations will put their hope. Matthew 12:21

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. The world will be filled with hope and anticipation of what lies ahead in 2018. Resolutions will be made and joy will ring out all over the world.

There aren’t too many times when the world comes together to agree in hope but New Year’s is one of those times. Somehow if only for a few moments most of us can set aside our cares and concerns and look ahead with hope. We believe that good can outweigh evil and that this brand new year will bring better times than the year behind.

Sadly the hope of New Year’s is often short-lived. The news will report stories of sadness and tragedy that occurred while we were asleep. Our hopes can easily be dashed if they are placed in the things of this earth.

Thankfully Jesus came to give us hope that the world can’t take away. When we trust in Jesus as our Savior and Lord we have the hope of eternal life. Regardless of what this world throws at us we know that Heaven is our forever home and we live in hopeful assurance of that day.

The hope that Jesus brings can also be ours each day. When we choose to look for the good things of this world instead of allowing the bad to weigh us down we hold onto hope. This is my prayer for each of us as the new year dawns. Hope.

Happy New Year!

 

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JESUS IS IMMANUEL

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  Matthew 1:23

Have you had enough of Christmas yet? I love Christmas and almost all that comes with it but as an introvert I will admit that once in awhile throughout the holiday I just want to be left alone! For me some of the activities, parties and shopping among crowds can be overwhelming. I need some space to regroup and move forward.

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Jesus came to earth to be Immanuel, God with us. It has been said that Jesus is God with skin on. God became man, born of a woman and raised by imperfect parents. He knows the struggles we face and the sorrows we bear and loves us in spite of those struggles and imperfections.

When we argue with another person sometimes one or the other walks away from the argument. Sadly sometimes people walk away from relationships all together. There is no chance to explain or reconcile.

I am so thankful that Jesus is not like this! He is with us and will always be. While he doesn’t love our sin He continues to love us in spite of our sin. If we turn our back on Him Jesus will always be there waiting for us to turn back to Him.

Most of us know the story of the prodigal son who walked away from home and squandered his inheritance. When he hit bottom and had been left all alone by his friends he turned back to the one he had left. He went home.

The prodigal son was welcomed home by his father, not grudgingly or as a servant but with fanfare and rejoicing because his son was home. This is a picture of how Jesus feels when we turn back after being away for a time. He will always have arms outstretched waiting for our return.

I am thankful that if there are times when I’m angry at God or disappointed by His decision I don’t have to worry that I will be left alone. He will give me the space I desire, but will keep after me until I turn back to His welcoming arms.

I praise God that He sent Jesus to be Immanuel, God with us!

 

 

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JESUS IS THE MESSIAH

 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Luke 9:20

Have you ever waited so long for something to happen that when it actually does it’s difficult for you to believe? I remember feeling that way about Christmas as a little girl. I would wait and wait, feeling like Christmas Eve would never arrive. When it did I would hang my stocking and go off to bed, lying awake wondering if it really was going to be Christmas when I woke up.

It seems like that’s how some of the Jewish people felt about the coming of the Messiah. They had been expecting Him for generations. Each probably wondered if they would see Him in their lifetime. When Jesus did come people found it hard to believe He was the promised Messiah. I think some people had a set of criteria the Messiah would meet when He came. Perhaps they thought He would come as a mighty warrior or a king would turn out to be the Messiah. Certainly they thought there would be an announcement of sorts from Heaven.

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Jesus came without any fanfare. There was an announcement to the shepherds but certainly that couldn’t count. Who were they to have the promised Messiah revealed to them?

One who had no trouble believing was Simeon. He had been promised to see the Messiah before his death. As an old man in the temple that day when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to be dedicated Simeon spoke these words:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss
your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

I imagine Simeon went and told everyone he encountered of the special birth and the Messiah who had come to save them from their sins.

Although Christmas is over don’t stop spreading the good news of the baby born to set us free from our sins. Let others know that the Messiah came and remains with us today.

 

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JESUS IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE

For to us a child is born, to us a 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.     Isaiah 9:6

A poignant Christmas carol is “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” based on a poem entitled “Christmas Bells” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War. The words to some of the refrains are here:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

 Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

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Our world is filled with sorrow and strife and sometimes it seems that peace is so far away. As a new year dawns in just a few days we know that troubles will come along with the joys and successes that lay ahead. Longfellow’s poem reminds us that those feelings are not unique to our time. Throughout history there has been a heaviness of evil in this world.

The good news? We have One who fights for us who is the Prince of Peace! One day Jesus will come back, not as an infant in a manger but as a mighty warrior who will bring peace to every man, woman and child who trusts in Him.

This peace is also available today to anyone who seeks it. We are reminded in Ephesians 2:14 “For He himself is our peace…” When we ask and believe Jesus will instill in us a peace that cannot be explained by earthly standards. In the midst of tumult we can have peace in our hearts from the One who loves us, shepherds us and calms us through any storm.

As the new year approaches spend some time seeking the peace Jesus offers and ask Him to remind you throughout the year that He is there waiting to let that peace rule in our hearts through trust in Him.

 

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JESUS IS THE EVERLASTING FATHER

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father…     Isaiah 9:6

There is nothing like the love of a good father towards his children. It is so sweet to watch the cycle of a father with his child through the years. Watching the first time he holds his newborn, then holds his child’s hand to keep them safe, holding his daughter’s arm as he walks her down the aisle to her groom, then one day to watch the circle completed as the child holds the father’s hand as they say their final good-byes. I was blessed to have a loving, Godly father and saying “good-bye for now” to him was hardest thing I’ve had to do so far in my life.

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I read a wonderful commentary on Jesus as Everlasting Father by Pastor David Sunday on the Gospel Coalition website.

Jesus, your Everlasting Father, came down at Christmas into a broken and sinful world to fill our hearts with heaven’s love, and to teach us how to love one another. He came to make sons and daughters out of his enemies. This is the Father’s gift to us at Christmas. 

 How comforting it is to read, “His name shall be called . . . Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). Once we become a child of Christ’s, we are his and he is ours forever. Forever. There will be no goodbyes with him. Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from his love. Not even death itself—indeed, it will only draw us nearer. 

Earthly relationships can be challenging. There are times of trial in every relationship on earth but hopefully more times of joy than sorry. Christmas can sometimes heighten both the good and bad times of relationship with our families. On this day after Christmas you may be experiencing a range of emotions and a mixture of memories.

Take some time in the quiet of your heart to reflect, let go of any Christmas let-down and focus on the Everlasting Father who is here for you today and throughout eternity.

 

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JESUS IS OUR WONDERFUL COUNSELOR

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor… Isaiah 9:6

 

Where do you go to share your deepest thoughts? When you have a problem you need to work through who do you call? It may be your spouse, parent or best friend. Sometimes we seek out a neutral person who doesn’t have a vested interest n our situation to help us with a different perspective.

There are times when it seems no one understands. Sometimes we can’t get our feelings out and are weighted down with our cares. The good news is that Jesus came to be our Wonderful Counselor. He is there to give us advice and to remind us how much He loves us through the words of Scripture.

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Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that God said He will never leave us or forsake us. Any time we go to Him with a care or concern He hears us.

I think about those whom Jesus counseled in Scripture. Of course there were His disciples but also others whom He met right where they were and provided the counsel they needed at that moment. There was the Samaritan woman at the well who needed someone to understand that she had value. Jesus met Zacchaeus  where he was—up in a tree.

Zacchaeus  was curious at best about Jesus and instead of commenting on his size or shunning Zaccheus for his profession Jesus went to eat with him and counsel him on the way God wanted him to live. Jesus gave each of these people value and that turned their hearts to God and away from their sinful lifestyles.

There is no one who knows us better than God and no one who understands more than Jesus. Remember Jesus came to earth and lived life as a human. He struggled with the same kinds of things we do so he can relate to our situations. When we take our cares to Jesus we will find a compassionate friend who brings clarity and sometimes a new perspective to our struggles.

I am thankful that when no one else seems to understand what I’m dealing with I have a Wonderful Counselor to whom I can turn. I hope you know Him as a compassionate ear too.

 

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JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”   John 8:12

Christmas is a season of light. We light up our houses, places of business and even the town and city squares. Some people go all-out while others enjoy the simplicity of a few strands of white lights enhancing their homes. One of my favorite things at Christmas is to turn on the Christmas tree first thing in the morning while it is still dark outside and no other lights are on in the house. I love to sit in the peaceful, colorful setting while I talk to the Lord about the day ahead.

Christmas lights are a bright spot in the dark world around us. Their warm glow can dispel sadness and make a  bad day seem better. In the United States December is one of the darkest months, with the first day of winter, also the shortest day of the year, falling on the 21st. Christmas lights make it somewhat easier to transition to the dark, cold winter months.

When Jesus said He is the light of the world it was certainly about more than Christmas lights! Our news reports remind us daily of the darkness of this world, but even in Jesus’ time the world was filled with the darkness of sin. That darkness can sometimes seem oppressive and overwhelm us. But Jesus cam to dispel the darkness of sin in the world.

Jesus tells us that He is the light of life.

He is more than a candle that can be snuffed out or Christmas lights that will be turned off and taken down at the end of the season. He is the light that lives inside of us when we allow Him to be the leader of our lives. The light of Jesus is there to light our way out of the darkness, no matter how bleak and hopeless our path may seem.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.    Matthew 5:16

As Christians we are also directed to take the light of Jesus to the dark world around us. A smile or a kind word may seem like a small way to share God’s love but it can make a bigger difference in someone’s life than we may realize.

As you spend this Christmas Eve making preparations you may sit quietly near your own Christmas lights or perhaps gather at a candlelight service tonight at church. Let those lights remind you of the Light of the world, whose birth we celebrate tonight and tomorrow. He is the light that will never be snuffed out, and loves you so much that He came to earth to lead you through whatever darkness comes your way.