Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Anticipation

As we begin to look towards the blessed birth of Christ Jesus, we anticipate his birth and celebrate that wonderful night. Our homes will soon be filled with the trappings of Christmas. There will be trees decorated with ornaments that have been collected over the years. Each ornament has a story attached to it. Those stories bring laughter and smiles while others have bittersweet memories. Lights will be added to the tree and to the home. Evergreen garland and wreaths will be hung up and little handmade art projects made by children will adorn the home and hearth. The spirit of Christmas will not only fill our homes but soon will also fill our hearts.

For children, the magic of Christmas never seems to change. Toys may change, but the magic never does. As I reflect on my own childhood, which sometimes seems so distant, I remember all of the things my father and mother would do to prepare for that one special night. Dad would decorate the outside while Mom spent her time decorating the inside of the home. Dad, along with my brother and myself, would assemble the Christmas tree and bring the boxes and boxes and still more boxes of ornaments that Mom had collected over a lifetime.

My brother and I would look forward to getting the mail. Each hoping to be the first to lay his eyes on the Christmas catalogs. One of those catalogs, the “Sears Wish Book”, had everything and anything a child could desire or want. My brother and I could barely contain our joy when that catalog finally came in the mail. Between the Thanksgiving parades and the “Sears Wish Book”, we knew Christmas was right around the corner.

The anticipation we had could not be contained. My brother and I couldn’t wait for that glorious day when we got presents and more presents from that jolly old elf, Santa Claus. Later, we found out that parents were the givers of those gifts. Each gift wrapped and place gently under the tree by the hands of our loving parents who often scrimped and saved and sacrificed to make sure that their children would have the best Christmas ever.

Just like the excitement of children waiting for their gifts, we, as Christians, cannot contain the love we have in our hearts and the joy of the season. We eagerly anticipate that wonderful moment when a small child wrapped in swaddling clothes was placed gently into an animal feeding trough. Unlike children who had wonderful gifts under the tree, there was no tree, lights, garland or wreaths adorning his home. His home was borrowed and it was a stable. But, if you asked that child who would grow up to be the Savior and King of Kings, whether or not he thought that night was horrible, he would look at you with love in his eyes and tell you that it was the best Christmas ever. It is because of his birth that we are able to face tomorrow with hope and know that God gave us his one and only son to pay our debt of sin and give us the gift of eternal life with Him.

The birth of Jesus and the anticipation felt by all should never fade. The Israelites were told of the coming of a king and what he would do for them. Each person waited and waited in anticipation of that birth.

Almost 700 years before the birth of that small child, God told his prophets to share the news of this birth. Those prophecies gave hope not only to the Israelites but also to the entire world and for each generation to come. 

In chapter twenty-three of the Book of Jeremiah, God speaks to His children and tells them, “For the time is coming when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.

The Lord spoke to all and there was great anticipation for this new king. Years passed by and people continued to anticipate the arrival of their Lord. I am sure that people did grow impatient and wanted things to hurry along so that they could see the fulfillment of the prophecies. 

Micah records, in chapter five of his book, the words of the Lord, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.

God reminded His children of that promise through each of His prophets. Anticipation continued to build with each year and each prophecy. The Israelites continued to hope for that king. 

Isaiah tells the Israelites to remain patient and wait for the Lord. In chapter seven of his book, Isaiah speaks to the children, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

As the blessed day approaches, let us always remain patient with the Lord and allow things to happen in accordance with His will. While growing up, my brother and I learned very early in our lives that you cannot rush things. All happen in accordance to time and planning. Although we wanted Christmas to come faster, it came when it came. No matter how much we wanted or anticipated that moment. Christmas came on its schedule and not ours.

In his letter to his brothers and sisters in Rome, Paul, in chapter eight, writes, “But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.

Although he is talking about receiving our future glory from the Father, those same words can be applied to our anticipation of that glorious moment when the Word became flesh. Paul reminds us all that we must temper our anticipation with patience and confidently know that the promises of the Lord will be fulfilled. As the old adage goes, all good things come in time. Just be patient and wait. The coming of the Lord is at hand.

As you continue through this season of advent, temper your anticipation with patience and remain confident in your hope. Continue to be joyful and show the love of the Lord through all that you do. Share with those who walk in darkness the story of the small child who came into this world not to judge it but, rather, to save it.

When you share God’s love and the story of Jesus’ birth, you are giving a gift that many need and want. It is through sharing God’s love that you are able to stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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