In Hindsight - Vol. 2

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Like most people, I always look forward to this time of year. One of the things I enjoy most about Christmas is the music. I love Christmas music so much that if it were up to me, the only music from Thanksgiving to New Year’s would be Christmas songs. It’s not just nostalgia that makes me enjoy Christmas songs so much (though that certainly plays a role), but it’s also amazing to me to hear the Gospel so clearly communicated in the secular world. Walking through a grocery store, or at the mall, or even driving in the car with the radio on, the proclamation of the coming of the Savior of the world rings out. The songs of Christmas are a continuing and powerful way for the light of Jesus to invade a darkened world.

I’ll be the first to admit I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, even when it comes to Christmas music. I like traditional carols from previous centuries, classic songs from past decades, and even modern songs written today. I was recently listening to one of my favorite bands that just about no one’s heard about called “Future of Forestry.” Over the last ten years or so they’ve released several short Christmas albums with a mix of traditional songs as well as their own originals. One song that they wrote is called “The Earth Stood Still.” While listening to this song recently I was struck by one of the lines that said, “Shepherds stirred under starry skies, tasting grace that would change their lives. The angels trembled and the demons did too, for they knew very well what pure grace would do.” It’s amazing to think that two opposing sides can be looking at the same thing and have very different reactions. Angels welcomed the unfolding of God’s plans, while demons no doubt recoiled in fear.

Those who know Jesus and those who don’t can both look at Christmas with joy, but the source and reason behind that joy is certainly different. For those who know Jesus as Savior, our joy is so much more than warm and nostalgic feelings. We know that what happened all those years ago in a stable in Bethlehem was an amazingly unique and significant event. Grace had come and things would never be the same. That is certainly something worth celebrating!
I hope this Christmas season you are able to find some time to reflect on the beauty of grace.

From my family to yours, I wish you a very merry Christmas!

In Him,
Pastor Michael
During the Christmas season we’ve been going through a series called “Go Tell It,” examining the initial spread of the news about Jesus. In this series we looked at how different people responded to the news about the Messiah, and how we too can response.

Week 1
The first week we looked at one of the many ways that Jesus’ birth announcement was unique. Most babies are announced 9 months or so before they are born, but Jesus’ birth was promised thousands of years before His arrival. Genesis 3 actually contains what is called the “protoevangelium” which means the first announcement of the Gospel. After the fall God told the serpent that there would be enmity between its offspring and the offspring of woman. He was also told that though the serpent would bruise the heel of this future offspring, he would have his own head bruised. From this point on throughout Israel’s history they would be promised a coming Savior. All those promises of course pointed to Jesus Christ.

Week 2
The second week we saw how the first New Testament character to know about Jesus’ coming was actually the angel Gabriel. He brought this incredible news to Mary. Gabriel and Mary both responded to this news by acting in obedience. It seems from the text that the next person to know about Jesus’ coming wasn’t anyone from Mary’s town. Mary quickly traveled to see her relative Elizabeth and upon arriving it was the baby in Elizabeth’s womb who leaped for joy, alerting Elizabeth that Mary carried a special baby. Both Elizabeth, and John in her womb, responded to the news about the Savior with joy.

Week 3
This week we took a closer look at Joseph and his response. It seems likely that Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy when she returned after visiting Elizabeth for 3 months. The only logical conclusion that he could come to was that Mary had been unfaithful. We saw how even though Joseph had the right to divorce Mary publicly, he wanted to do so quietly, showing his genuine care for her, as well as his desire to please God. Even though Joseph had made up his mind, he was open to God’s leading. When told in a dream to take Mary as his wife, he did so. Everyone in their small town would have assumed that this was Joseph admitting to his part in Mary being pregnant before they were fully married, but Joseph took that cost to follow God. We saw how the right choice isn’t always the easy choice, but we never have an excuse to do the wrong thing. Like Joseph, we should respond to God’s leading with obedience and trust.

Week 4
The first public proclamation of the Gospel came to a group of Shepherds outside of Bethlehem. Shepherds were the outcasts of society at the time, and yet the angels were sent to them, showing that the Gospel was sent for all. At one time or another, everyone has felt like an outcast. In fact, 47% of adults and 60% of teens feel left out or isolated. Though this is a human reality, we talked about how it should be different amongst God’s people. If there were ever a place where everyone should feel welcome, it should be in the body of Christ. The Shepherds had an encounter with God and it changed them. They didn’t keep the news of Jesus’ birth to themselves but went and told others. Our care and concern should not just be for ourselves, but we should look out for each other.

Week 5
This series concludes by looking at the Wise Men. Since the Wise Men weren’t at the manger and actually came after Jesus’ birth, it seemed fitting to talk about them the week after Christmas. We will examine their story and see how the different characters reacted differently to the news of the birth of the new King. The Wise Men sought him out, Herod was threatened by Him, and the religious leaders all but ignored Him. We’ll again look and see what we can learn from this story and how our response to the coming of the Light of World should be to reflect His light in our lives.

Discussion Questions

•Out of all the characters involved in the Christmas story, which one do you most identify with?

•Much of Christmas is about waiting for the day to finally come. Discuss something that you had to wait a long time.

•Do you usually feel prepared or unprepared for things in life?

•If nothing is impossible for God, why do you think the impossible doesn’t happen more often?

•How can we keep our focus on God in the midst of troubling times? What about in the midst of good times?

•What are some practical ways you can point others towards Jesus?