Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dec 21, 2008 - Our Story

First Presbyterian Church of DuPage - The Five O'Clock

2 Sam 7.4, 8-16: That night Yahweh told Nathan, ... “So now, say this to my servant David: ‘This is what Yahweh of hosts says: I took you from the pasture and from your work as a shepherd to make you leader of my people Israel. I was with you wherever you went, and I defeated all your enemies before you. Now I will make you as famous as the great men of the earth. I will establish a place for my people Israel and settle them there; they will live there and not be disturbed any more. Violent men will not oppress them again, as they did in the beginning and during the time when I appointed judges to lead my people Israel. Instead, I will give you relief from all your enemies. Yahweh declares to you that he himself will build a dynastic house for you. When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent. I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent.’”Blockquote

What we talk about tonight--the scripture passages we listen to, the story that connects them--is the most important thing we’ve talked about all through the last four weeks of Advent. We are listening to the story of Jesus as it unfolds. The story begins with a promise, with prophecy, and leads us right up to our own celebration in just a few days. It leads to a barn in Bethlehem, to a cross outside Jerusalem, to an empty grave, and to our continued waiting for Jesus to come again with his kingdom. This is an important story.

But I need to confess that I have a hard time, sometimes, relating to it. You see, tonight is different from the other nights we’ve gathered together this Advent. In the past weeks, we’ve talked about hope and repentance, about peace, about joy even in the midst of mourning--things that are in a lot of ways timeless, things that are abstract enough to be able to touch on each and any of our lives, whoever we are. Hope and peace and joy and, especially, repentance and mourning are things that we each can explain and illustrate from experiences in our own lives. But tonight is not like those things.

Tonight we are talking about something that is not abstract or general or public domain in any sense. Tonight we’re not even so much talking as listening. We are listening to a very specific, very unique story, the story that tells us who Jesus is, that tells us why he can be the source of our joyful hope for peace. We’re listening to events that are not general but historical, things that happened in history, promises that were given, a baby that was born. And this can be a lot more difficult to talk about, to relate to. What do we know about ancient kings in far off countries, about promises of an ideal leader, about the politics of three thousand years ago--we can barely keep up with our own! Why should we care about this?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dec 14, 2008 - Christmas Joy

First Presbyterian Church of DuPage - 8 a.m. & 10.30 a.m.
14 December 2008
Lk 2.8-20

I want to talk about joy this morning. I want to talk about our reasons to be joyful--why we can be joyful, why we are able to rejoice. We get to hear this morning one the three or four most exciting events in all of scripture, in all of history. We get to hear how God came to be with us. Yet the account in Luke chapter 2 doesn’t allow us to reduce this to a pretty picture and nice sentiment inside a Hallmark card. It’s no tame thing, but in ways our nativity scenes and Christmas pageants cover up, it’s surprising, strange, mysterious, terrifying.

During our worship together the past two Sundays, Pastor Mark has passed out a booklet by Billy Graham, The Father’s Gift. If you haven’t received a copy, catch me or Pastor Mark after the service, and we’ll track one down for you. Billy Graham comes back over and over in the book to the difference between our stressed-out, hurry-up-and-shop experience of Christmas and what God was doing on the very first Christmas in Bethlehem. I encourage us each to read through it during this next week, whether on our own or together with family or friends, maybe at the dinner table. It’s short, with brief chapters. Maybe do a chapter a night.

In the chapter entitled “The Gift of Joy,” Billy Graham describes the scene we’re going to reflect on this morning. He writes, “Like most people of Palestine, those shepherds outside Bethlehem were poor and insignificant men. They had no reason to expect that this night would be different form any other. But God had other plans. This was the night when God Himself would come to earth. The dull routine of their lives was suddenly and dramatically shattered by the appearance of the angels, and the tidings of Christ’s birth echoed across the skies. What is the message of those Christmas angels? First of all, it is a message of love and peace. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men,” sang the angelic multitude. It is a message of joy and hope. “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The message of the Christmas angels is that God not only exists, but that He is a loving heavenly Father who seeks to restore us to what we were created to be--His children. Because God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has entered this world, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that joy and hope can be ours if we will but receive the gift of Christmas.” (28-29)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dec 7, 2008 - Our Hope Is Peace

First Presbyterian Church of DuPage - The Five O’Clock
Ps 85.7-13--”Our Hope is Peace”

Last week we talked about how the world is broken and how we are broken. We prayed to God about the specific ways we need him to come and save us. We confessed to him the ways in which our hearts are set against his kingdom coming. We called these actions and attitudes what they really are: sin. We repented. We admitted to God that we have been wrong and that we want to be different now, that we want to watch and wait and live like his kingdom is really coming right here into our lives.

As part of saying all this, we took little slips of black paper and wrote on one sided the ways we feel the world’s brokenness. On the other side, we wrote ways we have sinned, how we have added to the brokenness of the world. And then we folded them up and tucked them into the branches of this tree. That was all last week. If you weren’t here and want to put your confession on the tree, catch me or Cindy after the service.

This week, I want to talk about hope. Specifically, about what we hope, the content of our hope. Two Advent candles are burning tonight. The first one, the one we first lit last week, is the Hope Candle. The second one we just lit tonight is the Peace Candle. We keep both burning tonight because hope and peace are all tied up together. Our hope is a big part of what it means for us to be Christians. But for what do we hope? Are we just looking to wake up to a better day tomorrow? Or maybe a lucky lotto ticket tucked in our Christmas stocking and exactly what we want wrapped up underneath the Christmas tree? As Christians, as Jesus-followers, we hope for peace.

We hope for peace. But not just any peace. We are not like an exasperated old man shouting for some peace and quiet. We aren’t like a harried mom, driving kids to school, to sports, wishing for just a moment’s peace. Sometimes we may want these kinds of peace, but that is not the peace Jesus leads us to hope for. In the ancient song we read tonight, Psalm 85, the songwriter expresses the kind of hope we have in Jesus.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...