Christmas snuck up on me this year. With Thanksgiving being so late, a visit with the grandparents in the middle of the month, and working up to Christmas Eve, the holiday has arrived and my heart feels rushed and unprepared. So, on Sunday, as the final day of Advent drew to a close, I spent some time reading the story of Jesus’ birth from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I was struck anew by the stories of waiting that surrounded this greatest day in history. Waiting is what Advent is all about – the hope of the coming Savior, the preparation for His arrival, the joy of His birth, and the love He showed in coming to earth.
- A coming into place, view, or being; arrival
- The coming of Christ into the world
- The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ
- Middle English; Latin – Adventus; arrival, approach
- Beginning or arrival of something anticipated
Beginning or arrival of something anticipated. Can you feel the excitement in the air? Imagine! The promise of a Savior…followed by 400 years of silence. An entire nation, waiting for the promised Messiah, anticipating the salvation and redemption He would bring.
As I read, these other examples stood out to me as well:
*Zacharias and Elizabeth get married, and then they wait for a baby. And they wait. And wait. And pray. And wait, until Elizabeth is long past child-bearing age and all hope seems lost forever.
*Zacharias is rendered mute, and has to wait at least 9 months before being able to share what God had spoken through the Angel Gabriel.
*Simeon is given a promise that he will not see death until his eyes have seen the Messiah. Old age begins setting in, and still no Messiah is appearing.
*Jesus himself waited 30 years to begin his public ministry.
Do you know what the Bible says about Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon in the midst of their waiting? Luke 1:6 says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were “both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” And Luke 2:25 says that Simeon was “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
Here are four thoughts from their example of walking faithfully with the Lord while waiting:
1. God’s sovereignty is sure, and His timing is perfect. At the exact appointed time, Elizabeth conceived John, Zacharias got to tell everyone about the glory and goodness of the Lord, Israel’s promised Messiah came, Simeon witnessed the dedication of Jesus, and Jesus began his public ministry. Not a day too early or too late, but exactly on the day each event was supposed to happen. Psalm 139:16 says “In your book were written ALL the days of my life before one of them came to be.” God is the one in control, and He brings all things to pass in His good timing and perfect plan.
2. Waiting is not painless, but the result makes it worth walking through the dark days. Imagine 400 years of silence from God. Or going through an entire pregnancy and birth with a husband who could not respond to you. Or waiting years upon years for a child until hope seems lost. Or getting older and wondering each day if you would finally see the promised Messiah. Or preparing for a public ministry knowing that it is going to end with your death and resurrection three short years later.
3. Obedience is not contingent upon God’s response. Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon were all described as being faithful to follow God, even when they did not always know if or when an answer would come. Jesus was the only one who knew the end from the beginning. The others chose to trust God and walk in faithfulness each day regardless of what the outcome was. Again, their obedience was not contingent upon God’s response to them, but rather on the knowledge of who He is and their trust that He would fulfill His word (for more, check out Heb 10:23 and 2 Tim 2:13).
4. We can trust God with our future in the midst of waiting. Back to Psalm 139:16. He already knows every day of our future. He has gone before us, laying the way and offering to lead us on the path as our Light and Guide. Proverbs 3:5-6 calls us to trust in Him, lean not on our own understanding, and He will direct our paths. Psalm 119 is full of verses where David exalts the Lord as righteous and true, and declares the Word of God as trustworthy and and worth leaning our full weight upon.
What are you waiting for today? A baby, like Elizabeth? A new job? A spouse? Healing from an illness or chronic pain? An apology that never seems to arrive? The redemption of a friend or family member? An answer to a hard question? Direction on where you are supposed to go next? The return of Jesus and the making of all things new?
Whatever you are waiting for, I pray that you will be encouraged by this to continue trusting the Lord and walking faithfully with Him, no matter what may come. As you read the Christmas story, rejoice that the silence was broken, the Savior came, and through Him we have hope and salvation! See it with fresh perspective, and be reminded of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and perfect timing.
Merry Christmas, and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with you as you celebrate His birth.
There once was a time when Thanksgiving was about giving thanks. Remember? When we gathered together for the purpose of remembering God’s faithfulness, celebrating His blessings, and enjoying family and friends.
But ever so slowly the focus has shifted. Now it is more about overeating, and watching football, and pursuing the best deals as Black Friday turns rapidly into Black Thanksgiving. Have you noticed this year how many stores are open on Thursday, advertising sales and deals starting as early as 10am? Apalling, really. We have allowed the meaning and purpose of the holiday to be lost in the pursuit of spending money we don’t have on meaningless things. Instead of focusing on the abundance of what we have already been given, our focus is on getting more.
It’s not that finding an amazing deal on that new phone (for example) is bad; believe me, I love a good sale as much as anyone. However, this thirst for “more”, “better”, “new”, “upgraded”, and “different” is getting out of hand. Hopefully we are consistently cultivating thankfulness in our lives on a daily basis, but let’s get back to Thanksgiving being a day about giving thanks. Enough is Enough. Let’s fight against the current of consumerism and greed, and take this one day to actually be thankful for what we have been given. Sit around the table for more than 15 mintues, after spending 5 hours in the kitchen cooking. Share what you are thankful for, how the Lord provided for you this year, how you have grown, who has impacted your life for the better over the past twelve months, prayers that have been answered, etc.
There is so much joy found in choosing thankfulness, and complete fulness in fixing our eyes on Jesus. Everything we have been given comes from Him. Everything.
Remember that today, and choose to fight for thankfulness. In the midst of whatever is going on in your life and wherever you are, I pray that you experience the joy and fulness that is found in Christ, and enjoy the day with family and friends celebrating His great faithfulness.
Our church began going through the book Multiply in September, and for the past 8 weeks we have explored discipleship, the church, and our approach to God’s word. We have been going through the book in small groups, large community groups, and our pastor has been preaching on it from the pulpit each week. The discussions that have resulted have been fruitful, challenging, and encouraging as our church shifts to become a community of disciples who make disciples.
I wrote this story last week after a great discussion during my small group for our church-wide blog, but it turns out someone else had the same idea and beat me to the punch! As I read back over this though, I thought it could be encouraging for anyone who is desiring to learn more about God’s heart for the world and how we are called to get involved, so I decided to post it on here. 🙂 Enjoy!
We began our discussion about the Global Church last night talking about ways we have been involved in the past, and where we are at now. All of the ladies in my group understand that as followers of Jesus, no one is off the hook from participating in, praying for, supporting, and loving the Church around the world. We want to be involved, to be obedient, and to know what is happening with our fellow brothers & sisters. But, as we continued talking, a theme started to emerge.
“The world is massive – how can we possibly know everything that is going on in the Global Church?”
“My day is full as it is with work and kids and trying to even understand what is happening here in America – how can I add this on without becoming overwhelmed?”
“Those stories from Pastor Lon’s sermon on Sunday were so encouraging, but I have no idea where to find that information myself!”
All of this is true – the world is big, our days are full, and it can be difficult to find stories of what God is doing, especially in closed countries. And although it is daunting to consider trying to keep up with everywhere, we can start with somewhere.
Here are some of the ways our group came up with to get involved with the Global Church:
- Pick one country to pray for on a consistent basis. Maybe it is a country you have been to, or you know a missionary serving there, or it is an MBC partnership country, or you heard about it on the news, or you spin a globe and choose the country where your finger lands. However you decide, commit to praying for, learning about, and supporting one country in the world.
- Find your passion. There are a lot of causes around the world right now – nutrition/health, the fight against trafficking, clean water projects, advancing education, persecution, orphan care, adoption, and many more. What are you passionate about? Find out how the gospel intersects with these causes, and get involved by praying, giving, sharing, volunteering, and serving.
- Start Reading. Get a copy of Operation World and pick a different country every week or month to focus on. Follow Operation world on Twitter, or like their page on Facebook to read about what God is doing in many closed countries. Other great web resources are: International Justice Mission, Voice of the Martyrs, WORLD Magazine, CIA World Factbook , even Embassy/Consulate Websites.
- Get to know your neighbors. Chances are, living in the DC metro area (or wherever He has you right now), many of your neighbors moved here from overseas. Ask them about life in their country, if religious freedom is allowed, what the majority of people believe, what they personally believe, etc. One great tool is the Jesus Film Media app from Cru, which you can download to your smart phone or tablet. It has the JESUS Film and several other videos translated into over 1200 languages, which makes for an easy and personal way to tell them about Christ in their heart language.
- Partner with a Missionary. Whether you give of your finances, or commit to pray for them, or both, your partnership with them allows you to reach a part of the world with the gospel you could never impact otherwise! You will get to hear stories of God changing lives, and know that you were part of the story. Be encouraged as you read their updates, learn about their ministry, and join them in taking the gospel to the nations.
- Go on a Mission Trip. Find out how your church is involved in Missions, and step out in faith to join one of their trips, either locally or abroad. This is one of the most effective ways to gain a heart for the world. You will be wrecked in the best way possible as you see these places with your own eyes, serve alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ, encourage the local missionaries, share the gospel, get out of your comfort zone, and come home with a new perspective.
In his chapter on the Global Church, Francis Chan in the book Multiply says “We are here on this earth for His glory. God has blessed you so that you will use whatever He has given you for His glory, not yours.” Our motivation for loving the Global Church is to see God’s name made known around the world, to celebrate where He is at work (which is everywhere), and to bring Him glory.
What has He given you that can be used to bless and serve the Global Church?