Pastor Brad reminded us that the Christmas Eve service will be this coming Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Darlene then played a beautiful medley featuring Crown Him With Many Crowns and O Holy Night. Brad and Darlene sang a moving rendition of Silent Night, and asked the congregation to sing with them for a portion. The fourth Advent candle was lit..
A couple of the children played songs on the piano as the offering was taken, and then we shared a time of prayer.
Prince of Peace
Brad asked how many people have finished their Christmas shopping? How many re-gifted a gift?
He acknowledged some of the stresses associated with Christmas, including all the chaos of getting ready, or the empty chairs where a missing loved on once sat.
After reading the passage in Isaiah 9:6 we turned to the Christmas story as told by Luke.
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Today we live in a world with many things that steal our peace. Financial stress. Emotional upheavals. Work stress. Personal conflicts with others, including loved ones....
Brad noted that God can give us a supernatural peace within the storms of our lives, whatever form they take. The peace of Jesus invades your innermost being as a settled conviction that all things are in God's hands, including your life. Regardless of what is going on in your life you can trust the competence of God in all things.
"Peace I leave with you," Jesus said. "My peace I give you. Don't let your hearts be troubled." Our peace comes through the Prince of Peace.
Worry is something many of us experience, but there is something you can do about it. When you worry, take it as a signal to invite Jesus in.
Brad cited 1 John 4:18. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
When children are growing up they need two things. They need a secure place, a shelter of love, but also they need to have freedom to explore and even opportunities for risk-taking opportunity.
But we've all seen how when young children are approached by strangers in public places they run quickly to the place where they feel secure, behind mom or dad's leg, and they hold on. As adults we also can do this, running to Jesus to regain our security.
This verse from John is showing us that our security in Christ gives us the confidence and strength to face the risks. His perfect love casts out fear. His Spirit gives us strength. As David wrote, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Sometimes we worry alone when we can call a friend to pray with us. Music also brings comfort. Whatever the situation, run to Him.
Brad then explained that the goal of our lives is not simply peace. We have been bought with a price... for a purpose. Embracing God's call on our lives is also essential. When Moses died, Joshua was told to cross the Jordan and possess the Promised Land. Like Joshua, we have a purpose. Getting rid of the negative things that sap up and drag us down is only half of the battle. Once we are settled with God, we must embrace the call.
Brad illustrated this by telling about a "ropes course" that he was involved in setting up at camp. A ropes course is a challenging personal and team development exercise in which people are high up and have to use a belay for safety. At the center of this activity is the need for, and development of, trust.
Emotionally we tend to not trust the safety equipment, even though initially we tell ourselves that we do trust it. Fear takes hold the higher off the ground one gets, until we're forced to act on what we say we believe. Trusting is more than mental assent, and we live into it.
Brad stated that trusting God to meet our needs is similar. Stepping out in faith can initially be scary, but God is trustworthy.
This message is important, Brad said, because you only go through life once. We can choose to worry or embrace the peace that comes through knowing Christ.