Crestview family, this Sunday is our 4th weekend of Advent anticipation – already it’s here! And then we will celebrate with a Christmas Eve worship service, Tuesday, December 24th, at 5:00pm. The past three weeks we have been exploring the expanding or diminishing of joy, gratitude, love and peace through the often dueling realities of the Call of Christ and the Cry of our Culture. We have explored Jesus invitation to ‘Come and Worship’ with John 10:10. We have engaged the call of Christ to ‘Choose What is Better…’ with the story of Mary and Martha. We have been challenged by the call to ‘Generosity through Proximity’ with the Parables of the Sheep and the Goats and the Good Samaritan.
This Sunday, December 22nd, we will be challenged by the words of Paul in Acts 20:24, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” The message is entitled, A Cause to Live For. I will leave you in anticipation of this weeks Advent message with a quote from John Piper, “What every one of us needs is a cause to live for that agrees with the purposes of our Creator.” With that I will make this claim: everything we need to know about our purpose for being given life, and for living, is summed up in this verse from the Apostle Paul. If you want to understand the purpose of your existence, and therefore the purpose of your life, come Sunday.
Sunday December 15th, Advent week #3: The Conspiracy of Generosity. There is a beautiful story in the Bible about ‘seeing.’ When Hagar, an Egyptian servant of Sarah’s, is pregnant by Abraham to begin to build a family through Abraham – all of this sanctioned by Sarah who has been unable to bear children with Abraham. Sarah begins to mistreat Hagar after she becomes pregnant with Abraham. It gets so bad that Hagar flees. And while in the desert, an angel appears to Hagar and reassures her of the Lord’s blessing to her and through her child Ishmael, which means, “God hears.” And Hagar responds by giving the Lord the name, ‘The God who sees me.” And then names the well of this place, ‘Beer Lahai Roi’ which means, ‘well of the Living One who sees me.’ And then, crazy as it is, after Sarah does become miraculously pregnant with Abraham and she gives birth to Isaac, Sarah, now that she has her own family, tells Abraham to send her away. So they sent Hagar and Ishmael away from them into the desert – really banishing them from the Abraham clan to fend for themselves. And Hagar, soon is without food and water in the desert. She places Ishmael under a bush in the shade, wanders off about a bowshot away and says to herself, “I cannot watch the boy die.” Can’t imagine – and then God shows up, “Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy crying. Lift up the boy, take him by the hand.’ When she opened her eyes, there was a well of water. Again, God sees and engages. God calls on us to ‘see and engage.’ For two weeks we have been challenged by God’s word to consider our anxiety, our worry… our preoccupations… our self focus… or hyper other focus (what others are doing or not doing)… our busyness… could it be, that all of these things are keeping us from seeing our neighbor in need? And once we actually ‘see’ our neighbor, keeps us from engaging? We will tackle two parables on Sunday – The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)and the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Both of them are calls of Christ to ‘see’ the needs of others and respond with generosity. Looking forward – we will celebrate communion together Sunday! And enjoy a church-wide fellowship feast after the service. Bring food to share! Unto us a Gift of God’s generosity has been given.
We might as well call this what it really is – an Advent Conspiracy. The Son of God coming to the world – as a baby! Becoming human! What? God dwelling with us in the flesh? Why would God do this? Definitely an Advent Conspiracy! Conspiracy is the action of plotting or conspiring… God has been plotting out his plan of redemption for the world ever since he created it… but not conspiring to harm, but to bless! A reverse conspiracy.
And how he chooses to make his entrance is unbelievable: a little known podunk town of Bethlehem. Mary giving birth miles and miles away from home in a cave, with an animal feeding trough as a cradle bed… One who is called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace’ chooses to come this way? This is an Advent Conspiracy!
We will explore together another facet of Advent together by looking at the story of Jesus and Mary/Martha from Luke 10:38-42. Both Mary and Martha are engaged in good things, yet, Jesus blesses one of them as ‘Choosing What is Better.’
We have already cracked the door last week in looking at both the Call of Christ and the Cry of Culture in our daily life by reflecting on each of these influences with the phrase Come and Worship! This week, we will reflect together on these influences in our lives through the phrase Choosing What is Better!‘
Our Advent worship season begins Sunday December 1st with a focus on returning to nativity. Several years ago a cookbook came out called Less is More… that’s the idea of Advent.
A return to nativity sounds like a refreshing way to reflect on Advent. In order to anticipate the coming of Jesus well, (remembering his 1st coming and looking forward to a 2nd return), preparation is of great importance. How are we to do that? What should that look like?
Scripture is filled with wisdom and guidance, mandates and divine callings, about these things. It definitely has something to do with less is more. It’s difficult to seek God, hear God, follow God well when we are bombarded by so many different voices, demands, and interests. Jesus ‘coming’ to our hearts and lives in greater measure will require intentional return to nativity. For 4 weeks we will focus on themes of less is more in relation to the stewarding of our worship, time, generosity, and devotion. Maybe by Christmas Eve worship together, our hearts will be better prepared for Jesus coming.
Text for Sunday is Romans 12:1-2. Give Thanks and prepare the way of the Lord, See you Sunday! — Pastor Mark