Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

A Reminder

Another week has gone by, and the year is drawing to a close. The shortest day of the year is rapidly approaching. and by the time March comes around, the lengthening of daylight hours will be noticeable. It is also the time when, due to the holidays, we who contribute articles to our local newspapers will find new deadlines to meet.

If my next few columns seem a bit disoriented, I can blame it on being forced out of the comfortable little rut I have gotten into. Those who do not read this in the newspaper, will just have to play along, because everyone gets the same material, just by different means.

This week, I will share a thought or two about Christmas, and what I believe we need to remember about the holiday. I see others writing what I would call ‘feel good’ statements, about the meaning of Christmas, and I think where did they get that idea?

One particular statement caught my eye this week. It was written by the pastor of a mainline church. The article ended with the thought that Jesus came to give the gift of love, and to be a great teacher and an example to all mankind. This is true in a sense, I suppose, but the words of Jesus bring a different message; one that is often overlooked in our day.

Of course we all know John 3:16, in which Jesus says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” But the verse goes on to say that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. In the very next verse, he says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Here are more words of Jesus: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 5:17). “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17b).

“There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15).

In His enduring love,
Pastor Jerry

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The Season Begins

Hello friends,
Already it is December. Soon we’ll be trying to learn a new number to write on our checks, that is if anyone writes checks anymore. Here at our place we have experienced our second winter storm of the season, and winter hasn’t officially arrived. We are well protected from the wind here, so I doubt we had as much drifting as in other places. Also, I think the total snowfall here was less than forecast, and I’m okay with that.

It is the season of Advent for the Christian church. We celebrate the first coming of our Lord, and look forward to his promised return. As I observe people, it seems most don’t understand the significance of Christmas, let alone any thought of Christ returning again. There are colored lights and evergreen trees with all kinds of decorations, including a herald angel at the top. Presents under the tree, and displays of shepherds and wise men meeting at the nativity with gifts for baby Jesus.

But, may I suggest that if you asked most people to explain the meaning of Christmas, they would probably be hard pressed to give a clear presentation of the reason for the season. Jesus came to pay the penalty for sin, he lives in the hearts of those who believe, and he is coming again at some future time.

Here is the problem, as I see it. Most have a pretty good grasp on the idea of Jesus’ first coming, and will understand that he was raised from the dead, and is in heaven with the Father. The downside is they live as though he is ‘out there’ somewhere, while failing to understand his presence in the world. Their lives are lived no different from those who claim no knowledge of Jesus or God.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, his disciples were told, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I found this appropriate quote from William Barclay, a Scottish theologian: “The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ.”

Waiting for His appearing,
Pastor Jerry

It’s Christmas

Dear friends,
I suppose it has something to do with being retired and finding ways to entertain ourselves, but we have begun to follow recipe pages on Facebook. One recent post caught my eye. It went something like this: “Ten Recipes That Taste Like Christmas!”

My first thought was, what does Christmas taste like? Followed close behind by, what color is Christmas? If I had an opinion on these two questions, I suppose I would say the tastes of Christmas might be those of candy canes, eggnog, cinnamon, gingerbread, and a host of other foods and sweets. Then I would say the colors of Christmas would definitely be red, green, and gold, or others, depending on the individual.

Immediately following these came the question, what in the world do these things have to do with the incarnation of the Lord Jesus? Answer: Nothing.

Later, I saw a quote saying, “Christmas is mostly about giving glory to the only God who would step down from on high to lift those he loves.” This was from a preacher who probably should have rethought that statement, because to me, Christmas is not mostly, but all about giving glory to God for his indescribable gift.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16). Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Luke 2:10).

This is Christmas. At the stable in Bethlehem, the gift of a Savior was given. That gift was to include the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, followed by His resurrection. The gift of salvation. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas,
Pastor Jerry

Return to Advent

The Advent season is here. Actually, it is well under way. It is the time leading up to Christmas, and in today’s emphasis on decorating, shopping, and finding the perfect gifts, Advent gets pushed aside.

Advent proclaims an advent—a time before, a looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas at the end of it. In fact, Christmas lacks meaning without the season of advent going before it.

Advent is a time of waiting and anticipating. This is why Advent celebrations, both at home and in churches, focus on scriptures that anticipate the coming of Christ. In Micah, we read, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, …out of you WILL come for me one who will be ruler over Israel…” And in Matthew, Joseph is told that Mary “WILL give birth to a son, and you ARE TO give him the name Jesus…” Also, Luke tells us “while they were there, the TIME CAME for the baby to be born.”

Things like Advent calendars and crèches that remain empty until Christmas Eve give a shape to the anticipation of the season. And a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives. In this day of ‘instant’ gratification, it is hard for most of us to wait for anything. We want it here and now!

It’s not too late to turn our attention away from the gifts to the advent of the Greatest Gift, and the anticipation of His return. As Paul tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

We can still take time to spend time with our families, reading the scriptures that relate to Advent, pray, and sing some Christmas hymns that anticipate the coming of Christ.

Then, when Christmas Day arrives, we can greet it, not with a sense of relief that the Christmas season is almost over, but with joy for the great gift. Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessings,
Pastor Jerry

Getting or Giving?

Hello friends,
We have endured another week of very mild temperatures. Somehow, I feel we will pay for these at some point. It has been good for putting up those remaining outdoor Christmas decorations, though.

I’m doing something different this week. Since Black Friday and all the other special shopping days are past, I thought it might be helpful to think about the following article from the “Babylon Bee”, a satirical news site that pokes fun at current culture.

Headline: Nation Repents of Thanksgiving with Day of Violent Pillaging
U.S.—Unable to fake contentment and thankfulness for one more second, citizens across the nation awoke Friday and immediately set out on a frenzied mission to violently pillage and strip bare all nearby retail locations, determined to acquire any discounted goods they desired, by any means necessary, numerous reports confirmed.

Pillagers beat each other with various weapons and instruments, wrestled on the floor like animals, and even exchanged gunfire in some locations, all in the name of taking hold of material goods they desired.
Sources confirmed that the unfettered violence occurred less than 24 hours after these same people sat around tables with family and friends, over large meals, and gave thanks for the many blessings in their lives.

“12 hours of gratefulness annually is way too much for the majority of humankind to stomach,” experts revealed amidst the day’s chaos. “What we see on Black Friday is just human nature’s standard, guttural reaction to the annual tradition of acting like the world does not revolve around them for one whole day.”

Here is what Jesus said about this kind of behavior: Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4).
“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and you Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:29-31).

Perhaps this might give us pause, as we consider the real meaning of Christmas in the days ahead.

Just thinking,
Pastor Jerry

The Gift

Hello friends,
It is the last week of November. The Thanksgiving leftovers are almost gone, and after being thankful for God’s blessings of the past year, we can now concentrate on celebrating the greatest gift ever given, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Christmas lights are up at the Lake, and if you are in the area, it is worth driving out to see them. As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The past few days have been unseasonably warm, so it may be harder to think Christmas. However, there are only four weeks until Christmas, and then a brand new year. As I look back, I see many changes in the past year, and I don’t believe they were all positive. That is not to say there was nothing positive, just that those things were less noticeable.

We are reminded at this time of year, that God came to earth in human form, to set in motion His plan to redeem a sinful, fallen world. There was a quote in our church bulletin this morning that said, “It is really sad how much of our time, effort and energies are captured by the cultural busyness of Christmastime, rather than the core of the Advent story. We allow Christmas to be more about created stuff than it is about the incarnation of the Creator. We’ve turned the story on its head.”

Here is a refresher, just in case anyone might need it:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons (Galatians 4:4-5).

The apostle Paul, in reminding the church at Corinth of the gospel, wrote this, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Yours,
Pastor Jerry

Waiting for Christmas

The weather word for the week is COLD! I knew we would pay for those warm November days sooner or later. Oh, well, this is Nebraska, after all.

In these weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday, my comments will focus on the reason it is so important, not just to Christians, but to the whole world.

One message of the Christmas season is that Jesus is going to return again. As we celebrate His birth, we also rejoice that He will return at some point to rule the world. Read Matthew’s account of John the Baptist’s message. (Matthew 3:1-11).

At His return, Jesus will judge the world. The Lord used the word judgment 20 times in the 4 gospels.

John’s message was the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the coming of the Savior of the world. We have the responsibility to carry his message forward in relation to the second coming of the Lord.

Jesus said, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John, yet the one who is least in the kingdom is greater than he” (Luke 7:28) How can this be?

“Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have a message infinitely greater even than the message of John and the honor of an even greater calling. We have the privilege of proclaiming the good news of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. We tell of his birth in Bethlehem. We proclaim that the Word has become flesh and dwelled among us. We preach Christ crucified as our substitute for our sins and raised from the dead for our justification. We openly promise that salvation comes to any sinner who believes and repents. John came before the Christ to prepare the way. We (Christians) come after Christ to preach his gospel. With John we declare that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, for it surely is” (Dr. Albert Mohler).

Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah. (Isaiah 9:6). Verse seven tells of his second coming: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever…”

The season is a celebration, but is it also a sober reminder of His promised return. Are you ready?

In Him,
Pastor Jerry