Encouragement From The Word

Hopes and fears

One of the most beloved Christmas carols is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  In that carol, New England preacher Phillips Brooks wrote, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Well, let’s say that 2021 has brought with it its own share of hopes and fears, intermingled.  And Brooks’ words have never been more true:  even the hopes and fears of 2021 are met in Bethlehem’s manger.  No matter what the world may throw at us, Jesus is able to meet it head on.

And this is not just warm, fuzzy romanticism: if we will believe it, it is true.  Of course, there are those for whom the truth proclaimed in Christmas carols remains mere romanticism, because they lack faith in the One those carols exalts.  But when we believe that Jesus came into this world to save sinners like us, we realize in a most profound way that “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

The late theologian, J. I. Packer, once said, “Faith is not just believing Christian truth, but forsaking self-confidence and man-made hopes to trust wholly in Christ.”

We might look back on the year and be pretty proud of ourselves – for surviving, if nothing else.  But faith in Christ means realizing that even that comes solely by God’s grace.

So bring your hopes and your fears, and lay them at the foot of the manger in Bethlehem.  It’s a move you won’t regret.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
    He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy
” (Psalm 34.4-5a, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Are you ready?

The kids will be finished school today.

Maybe, you’ll be finished work today.

Christmas is coming.  Are you ready?

Well, I still have baking to do, and a turkey to buy, and presents to pick up for…

No, are you ready?

Despite what the culture teaches us, being ready for Christmas has less to do with making sure the tree is decorated and the table is set for dinner than with making sure your heart is prepared.  That’s what the season of Advent has been all about.

This coming week, we will celebrate the birth of the Son of God in a hewn-out cave behind a Bethlehem motel.  But it’s not just about an historical commemoration.

The nod to the newborn Jesus lying in a manger is vested with its deepest meaning when his birth in Bethlehem is replicated in our lives.  As we plead in one of the old Christmas carols:

          O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

          Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.

When Jesus is born in us, that’s when his birth in Bethlehem’s stall becomes most meaningful, and when we are truly ready.

Let Christmas be significant for you this year.  You still have a few days to get ready!  Invite Jesus to be born in you.  It’ll be like being born again.

Wait a minute, I’ve heard that somewhere before…oh, right:

I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3.3, NLT).

Christmas has the most meaning when Jesus is alive in our hearts.

If you’re looking for a place to worship the newborn King this Christmas, I invite you to join me at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  It would be awesome to see you.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Nobleton 2019