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“Life and Death at Christmas” John Piper

Because I know not everyone’s Christmas is full of happiness, this third week of Advent I want to share something written by John Piper. There can be joy because of the hope found in knowing Jesus Christ.

3rd week of Advent
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it
abundantly.” —John 10:10
As I was about to begin this devotional, I received word that Marion Newstrum had just died. She and her husband Elmer have been part of Bethlehem longer than most of our members have been alive. Marion was 87. They had been married 64 years.
When I spoke to Elmer and told him I wanted him to be strong in the Lord and not give up on life, he said, “He has been a true friend.” I pray that all Christians will be able to say at the end of life, “Christ has been a true friend.”
Each Advent I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death. She was cut off in her 56th year in a bus accident in Israel. It was December 16, 1974. Those events are incredibly real to me even today. If I allow myself, I can easily come to tears—for example, thinking that my sons never knew her. We buried her the day after Christmas. What a precious Christmas it was!
Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it. What is love for, if not to intensify our affections— both in life and death? But, O, do not be bitter. It is tragically self-destructive to be bitter.
Jesus came at Christmas that we might have eternal life. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Elmer and Marion had discussed where they would spend their final years. Elmer said, “Marion and I agreed that our final home would be with the Lord.”
Do you feel restless for home? I have family coming home for the holidays. It feels good. I think the bottom line reason for why it feels good is that they and I are destined in the depths of our being for an ultimate Homecoming. All other homecomings are foretastes. And foretastes are good. Unless they become substitutes. O, don’t let all the sweet things of this season become substitutes of the final great, all-satisfying Sweetness. Let every loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing
after heaven. Christmas. What is it but this: I came that they might have life. Marion Newstrum, Ruth Piper, and you and I— that we might have Life, now and forever.
Make your Now the richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the fountain of Forever. It is so near.

What Does Jesus Want for Christmas?

20 days old baby sleeping in a christmas nativity crib

Jesus wants us to adore Him. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

For months now my pastor has been preaching about love-Christ’s love. Every week we pray the “Love Chapter” as a congregation; and every week I see new ways that I fall short of loving the way that Jesus loves.

My life verse and greatest desire is “to know Christ” Philippians 3:8. Out of that comes my desire that others know Jesus. That doesn’t make me special or unique. All Christians are called to lead people to Jesus. I have learned that this makes me unpopular. I get “un-friended”. I get called “holier than thou”. People also say things about me like: “you think you are perfect”, or ask me “is that the way a Christian should act/talk/think?”

This past week I have done a lot of self-evaluating. I have asked myself many times if I am forgiving enough, loving enough, merciful enough. The answer is always an emphatic, “no”. I can not out-love or out-forgive God. What I can do is look to Jesus as my example of how to love, how to forgive, how to show mercy. All while recognizing that I am a sinner in need of a Savior.

I also have to recognize that we are all sinners in  need of a Savior. It is my greatest need, and the greatest need of all of mankind. It bears repeating we all are sinners in need of a Savior. That statement does not make me less loving, less forgiving, less Christ-like. It is truth.

John Piper in his Advent devotional, “Good News of Great Joy” asks the question, “What Does Jesus Want for Christmas?” The  answer, he says, is in John 17:26

“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them”

Dr. Piper goes on to say: “What Jesus wants for Christmas is for us to experience what we were really made for—seeing and savoring His glory.”

What is Jesus’ glory? His Father.  God’s name is holy, capitol “H” Holy. His Holiness is beyond our reach outside of salvation through Jesus. What is the glory of those who are called according to His Name? Our Father. We are to desire and to work toward attaining His Holiness.

I want everyone I know that does not know God to know Him through Jesus Christ. I want all those who know Jesus and are called after His name, Christians, to know Him better and to walk closer to Him.

That is love to me, capitol “L” Love.

Joy!

“Behold! I bring you good news of great joy, that will for all the people.” Luke 2:10

That was the greeting the angel of the Lord gave the shepherds. I love that the shepherds were the first to receive the news. They probably didn’t know they were the first. I am guessing they were usually the last to know what was going on. Shepherds were very necessary but not revered in Bethlehem.

God chose the lowly to first receive the news that His Son the Savior of the world had been born. Not in Herod’s palace, or the best inn in Bethlehem, not even a humble but clean home; Jesus Christ the Chosen One of Israel was born out back with the animals and all that went with it.

This gives me great joy! He came for me. Someone who would probably have been a shepherd’s wife in that day. Insignificant to the world around me, but not to God the Father. Knowing God sent the most glorious news of all scripture to the lowly gives me great satisfaction.He came for me and all those other women out there that sometimes feel insignificant.

Christ was born and died and rose again for the moms that schlep around in their sweatpants with circles under their eyes just trying to get through the day. He came for the working moms that feel guilty that they leave their children in daycare and don’t spend enough time with them. He came for the moms that yell and lose their temper and cross lines in disciplining their children. He especially came for the moms that forsake their children and pursue their own pleasures.  He came for moms like me that are just normal moms that don’t stand out in a crowd, but shop at Walmart and Goodwill and love their children with the abundance of love that overflows out of their hearts from the love God has planted in their hearts.

As the days are winding down to Christmas maybe you don’t have great joy; or any joy. If Christ is your Savior you can reach down and find that joy. He came for you, to bring you joy, great joy.

In Matthew 2:10 it says: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” The mysterious wise men that came from the east had joy, great joy. Look beyond what is going on today to the joy that God wants you to know in Christ Jesus, and “Rejoice always.” I Thessalonians 5:16

Look East

sunrise

I love Christmas Carols. Our family listens to Christmas music all year long. We love Andy Williams, The Carpenters, Nat King Cole, even Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Even in the silly songs like “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” there is the joy of Christmas.

This morning I read a carol that is new to me. It is called “People Look East”

People, look east. The time is near 
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Don’t you love the anticipation? Keep looking for Christ this season, seek Him, and be eager for His returning.

Anticipation

first sunday of advent

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. This is a glorious time of year. Not because of the day but because of Jesus Christ.

The anticipation of an event is often so much greater than the actual event. Often that is what the after Christmas slump is all about. All the focus and excitement is on the day. Too quickly it is over and the joy is not there.

The first candle of the Advent wreath represents prophecy. The book of Isaiah is rich with prophecy about the birth of Jesus. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (God with us)” Isaiah 7:14

Today my expectation is for the return of Immanuel. He is coming again and I am even more eager for his return than I am for the joy of this season. “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20

Throughout Advent keep your focus on His return and your glorious hope will not fade.