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Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 4)

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Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 4)2021-12-20T09:35:47-07:00

Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 3)

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amen good morning I’m Steve one of the pastors here it happened in march of 2004 penny and I were in Hawaii it’s the only time we’ve ever been there we were there with some other pastors for a week-long conference with Wayne cordero who is a pastor and author who lives there and I remember I think it was the first day he said to us tomorrow morning I want you to show up at this park at five in the morning with some like shorts on and jogging shoes we’re gonna exercise and I thought sure I’ve been playing racquetball once a week for a hard hour several games in that hour I must be in pretty good shape right so we show up and it’s still dark and there’s this big park with a sidewalk all the way around and it’s a mile loop around it and he said we’re to run two miles I thought I could handle that and we took off and the first mile went

okay and it was somewhere in the second mile when I just had to start walking and I remember I think it was God saying to me you’re not in as good a shape physically as you thought you were and you’re not in as good a shape spiritually as you think you are it was a wake-up call for me I wasn’t tending my soul I wasn’t paying attention to rhythms that would help me keep healthy physically emotionally spiritually a second wake-up call came also when we were living in Bellingham Washington our kids were young and it was Christmas morning I don’t remember which year but as was tradition we were all on our jammies and we went down to the Christmas tree and it felt like greed was the highest priority that morning what’s for me open the present put it aside do I get any more what else is for me how come she gets more than I do

how come he you know the feeling maybe you’ve had that on your family and penny and I said something’s got to change we thought Christmas was about Jesus and giving to others and it’s become this day of hoarding I’ll tell you a little bit later how we resolved that we’re in this advent series looking at the minor prophets mine are not because they’re not important as Alex taught us but just because they wrote small books and today we’re in Malachi the very last book in the old testament if you know where Matthew is page back a page and you’ll find Malachi in a sense Malachi is also a wake-up call the name Malachi means messenger or one who carries something heavy that needs to be shared and he writes as one of the last voices perhaps the last voice to the people of God before about 450 years of darkness and waiting for

Jesus to come we see in this book God’s and it’s typical of all the prophets God is concerned about certain things and he gives kind of a warning if these certain things don’t change this is what’s going to happen that’s typical of how all the prophets write and the first wakeup call or message from God is this I love you but I’m not pleased with you if you look at chapter 1 verse 1 or 2 I have loved you right from the beginning of the book God is reminding them I love you but in verse 10 he says very clearly but I’m not pleased with you is that possible to say both of those things I love you but I’m not pleased with you if you’re a parent you understand that right there’s times when we tell our man I love you there’s nothing you can do to make me not love you but I’m not pleased with your choices right now or your actions right that’s what God is

saying to his people what were some of the things that God was displeased with here’s what the bible says here’s a whole list of them you bring unacceptable offerings you turn up your nose at me you don’t honor my name you’ve turned away from me your teaching causes others to stumble you pick and choose which laws to follow you marry people of other religions you don’t keep your marriage vows you’ve twisted you have a twisted understanding of good and evil you practice magic there’s adultery lying underpaying employees taking advantage of of widows and orphans and foreigners they were withholding tithes and offerings and after this long list of people say but God you don’t care about us like they have the audacity when they’re doing all of these things to say God you don’t care where are you don’t you notice us I wonder if

sometimes God would give us a wake-up call I wonder what he would say to you or to me I I feel like he often does that in my life he says hey Steve let’s this isn’t this isn’t where I think you want to be if you’re a devoted follower of mine the message continues but I haven’t given up on you there’s a whole list of things that God says I’m not pleased with you but chapters three and four he says very clearly I haven’t given up on you here’s the glimmer of hope during this time of darkness and remember we talked about advent as being kind of a dark season of waiting and wondering when will God come through here are the glimpses Malachi chapter 3 see I will send my messenger who will prepare away before me chapter 4 verse 5 see I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the lord comes do you know who

he’s talking about john the Baptist in the new testament we read these words john says I am the voice of the one calling in the wilderness in Matthew Jesus says of john Elijah must come first and he has come already referring to john mark uses these verses to describe john the Baptist so 450 years earlier the prophet Malachi is saying there will be hope there will be a messenger he will prepare the way for the messiah and then there’s this glimmer of hope from chapter four but for you who revere my name the son of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings and you’ll go out and leap like calves released from the stall most scholars feel that that phrase the son of righteousness is also a reference to Jesus john Wesley in his famous Christmas carol that we just sang earlier hark the herald angels saying writes these words hail

the heaven-born prince of peace hail the son of righteousness light and life to all he brings risen with healing in his wings you know where he gets those words from Malachi that prophet writing over 400 years prior to Jesus coming then Malachi steps in with some harsh words these are words from God and of all the complaints that God listed in those chapters he zeroes in on their way they spend their money and because Malachi devotes so many verses to that in chapter three we’re going to talk about that for a few minutes this morning and maybe it’s appropriate at Christmas time when we’re spending money on different gifts and we’re trying to be generous in many different ways maybe it is appropriate that we also mention what the bible teaches about giving back to God says you’re ripping me off have you ever had something

stolen when we lived in Bellingham I had a little 14-foot aluminum fishing boat with an outboard motor locked to the back of the boat but the only place I could park it was out in front of the house and one morning I woke up and the motor was missing someone had broken the lock and taken the motor and if you’ve had something stolen you know what it feels like first you’re angry and you feel violated and who would do this and then I’m looking at all the pawnshops like who’s trying to sell a motor out there where’s my motor right never found it I wonder how God feels he uses this same imagery you you’re cheating you’re like stealing from me and in God can anticipate what the people are thinking and he says will a mere mortal rob God yet you rob me and you ask how are we robbing you God in tithes and offerings you’re

under a curse your whole nation because you’re robbing me bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house and test me in this says the lord almighty and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will be not enough room to store it you’re withholding tithes and offerings so God implies that it’s it was theirs to give and they were choosing not to give it they had gone from tithing to tipping God bring the whole tithe why what would go through people’s mind to make them decide I’m not gonna give God much or as much as maybe he would want me to give I could imagine people thinking well I don’t feel like giving oh a tithe well that’s too much I can’t afford that or what am I going to get out of it I’m giving to God and I feel like I’m not getting anything

back from him or I’m already giving some of my time to him why should I give some of my money or God the cost of living is going up I can’t afford to give or I’m already volunteering with my talents isn’t that good enough or I’m on staff and they don’t pay me very much why should I give back to God or I honestly don’t have anything left at the end of the month or it’s just not a priority I really don’t even think about it much what is this tithing thing anyway the word tithe means a tenth now you most of you can calculate a tenth if I have five thousand dollars a tenth is 500 right you drop one zero at the end of any number that’s the tenth of it where did this idea of tithing show up in the bible it actually shows up before the law was given we see Abram coming back from a battle he’s got all the bounty he meets a priest melchizedek and he gives

him a tenth just out of gratitude thanking God for the victory Jacob in genesis 28 has a dream and he says God I want to give you 10 a tenth of everything I have then in Leviticus we see God teaching his people that it was becoming a law that you one out of every ten of animals was God you just they would walk under a stick and you couldn’t pick and choose um oh I’m gonna give God the worst one or no you just the tenth one every tenth belong to God in numbers 18 God explained that this is how I’m going to provide for the workers in my house the Levites they’re not going to get an inheritance but you’re all going to give and then they will be provided for and then in the same chapter he says to the Levites and oh by the way you should tithe of the tithe people are giving to you and you should also give a tenth back to God but then

there was more there was jubilee celebrations where they were to give every third year they were to give another tithe to help support the orphans and the widows and the poor some scholars have calculated that all those old testament tithes probably added up to 23 percent that they were obligated to give and then there were offerings that was above the tie that was just it’s time to rebuild the temple bring in or build the temple bring in jewelry or whatever goods you have and sometimes their giving was so generous there’s one point where Moses had to say stop we have enough thank you for your generosity those were free will offerings let me summarize what I see in the bible especially the old testament but throughout God’s desire with the tithe was that there would always be an abundance in his house why to take care of

his servants to provide for the poor the widows the orphans and for community celebrations there were several times in their yearly calendar where God said stop working take a week and just come and celebrate come and worship bring lots of food like a party for God and with God there are many other teachings in the old testament about giving I just picked up a couple more the wise have wealth and luxury but fools spend whatever they get I think if you find yourself in a spot where you’re spending every dollar every month the bible would say that’s kind of foolish maybe you need to re-evaluate how what’s happening or some people are always greedy for more but the godly love to give now many people say is this just an old testament thing this tithing idea actually Jesus talked more about possessions and money than he did

about hell and heaven combined in fact his first topic favorite topic was the kingdom of God and the very next topic he talked most about was our possessions why is that because Jesus saw money as a competing God he said you can’t love both God and money so you say well we’re in the new testament we’re all under grace we’re not under the law and I agree we’re under grace so under grace would God want us to be more generous than the law or less generous than the law there is this one passage in Matthew 23 where he says woe to you teachers of the law and pharisees you hypocrites you give a tenth of your spices mint dill and cumin these are like little leaves or little seeds right and you can see these pharisees dumping out a pile of these and actually counting one cumin seed goes to God I get to keep the other

nine one mint leaf goes to God I get to keep the other nine right they were very particular about that but Jesus says but you’ve neglected the more important matters of the law like justice and mercy and faithfulness you should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former he could have said tithing is outdated it’s not important but he reaffirms the tithe but he said it’s more of a heart issue it’s not a money issue first of all because things like justice and mercy and faithfulness and compassion loving God and loving others those are the things that are most important to Jesus and as we develop a heart of compassion we also want to give back to God tithing can easily slip us right into legalism and Jesus always pulls us away from legalism and I am not here to guilt anybody into giving anything that’s Jesus doesn’t do that that

that’s not the way of Jesus he always moves us towards a genuine change of heart but legalism says this okay good I’ve checked the box I gave my tenth I get to do what I want with the other 90 percent and I think Jesus would say wait it’s all mine don’t think of the other 90 as yours but how can you steward all of it on my behalf a heart of generosity says how can I give more so why is tithing such a big deal to God does he want my money no he wants my heart he wants me to become more and more like him and he was a gener he is a generous God Jesus explained it this way where your treasure is that’s where you’ll find your heart so I don’t know if you keep a checkbook still or if you have credit card statements or a budget but if you look down that it’s that is actually a list of your priorities for example if your car payment is more

than what you give to God it’s a statement of priority it’s not it’s just a mirror it’s not meant to be condemning it’s just it’s just a fact these are my priorities where your treasure is Jesus says that they’re your heart will be also so we by becoming generous people we reflect a generous God so loved the world that he gave it’s probably the highest expression of love is giving Jesus said even to the point of giving our life for someone else greater love has no one than this did you know that on the average Christians give about 2.5 to their church and I wonder if God would say to some people today you’re kind of ripping me off too that’s maybe how he feels about that as you consider whatever you choose to give to this church or whatever church you might want to give to I think the bible would teach us to give a percentage the bible would

teach us to give regularly on a scheduled basis and to give to God first not at the end of the month to see what’s left but priorities get paid first if if we have a house payment we pay that first because we don’t want to lose our house right or a car payment or whatever else we have priorities get paid first the bible encourages us to give to God first off the top when I teach or coach young couples in their pre-marriage coaching I teach them to pick a percentage five if they want to 10 if they choose to and then develop a budget or a spending plan around that south is so blessed to have so many generous people who love to give to the church I was taught to give I was always taught that the first the first dollar out of every 10 is God’s to give it to the church and I think in my early years I did that because I thought I should and now I love

to give I do it because I want to but for penny and I in our 39 years of marriage we’ve always given 10 to the church and then other missionaries and missions and eight you know the poor all the other things we like to support for us is on top of that and except for the last four years when I ran a bakery I was we were on a pastor’s salary those years and we felt like we wanted penny to be home and and not be a working mom she worked plenty at home and so we lived on little and God always provided I’m here to tell you that God always provides I remember when my salary was thirteen thousand a year I remember when it was twenty two thousand a year when it was twenty four thousand a year God always provided we didn’t go out to eat much we never drove new cars we washed Ziploc bags we clipped coupons we did whatever it

takes but God always provided now I get we give generously because it’s an expression of our love for God and our love for his church it helps us grow in generosity it pushes back against that world’s mentality that we’re consumers and God sees us as managers or stewards of what he’s entrusted to us you may disagree with me and that’s fine but I think if you don’t tithe when you make thirty thousand a year you won’t tithe when you make three hundred thousand a year because it’s not a money issue it’s a heart issue it’s a matter of priorities did you know that our church tithes out of every hundred dollars that is given to our church this year eleven dollars goes out to support missions and missionaries we’ve already given away seventy one thousand dollars since July first twenty of that went to afghan refugees and over fifty thousand

to the missions agencies and missionaries that we love to support here’s just for a minute let me explain here’s how our church finances work Alex and I meet with the with the board of elders and we think we look at the numbers carefully about what we anticipate will need for the next year and we do this in the spring because our fiscal year starts July 1. so in this fiscal year um we’re projecting we’ll need about a 1.2 million dollars and then we divide that into 52 weeks and we come up with a weekly number and so this week our ministry plan I told you that the fiscal year is July one our ministry plan would say that we would need 530 000 as of this week and year to date actual giving has been 460. so there’s about a 70 000 difference now we anticipate some people love to give end of the year gifts and all of that may be gone by the end

of December we don’t know but that’s how that works in our church here’s God’s message put me to the test just try me on this one I don’t know where God says that anywhere else in the bible but when it has to do with giving of our finance he says go ahead and test me just try me out if you’ve never given a certain percentage and you want to try God test God out do it he says here’s what the text says test me in this says the lord almighty and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it one of the signs that we’ve drifted from God is that we stop giving to God and remember God wants to have an abundance in his south so that all of his servants are well taken care of so that we’re able to take care of the needy folks among us and in our community

who come to us for needs the widows the orphans and that we can have good celebrations have you ever put God to the test when it comes to your finances and giving this season of giving gifts is a great time to reconsider our and reevaluate our own giving I told you that we had a wake-up call in our family one Christmas morning here’s what we decided it may not be for everybody this is what we decided Christmas day is going to be a day of giving to others so we’re not gonna open any gifts on Christmas day we we’d as a family would pick a different day and call it our gift giving day that’s really original isn’t it um this is our gift-giving day often it would be a day or a few days before Christmas which our kids loved because they got their gifts a few days before their friends did and that was the day that we didn’t go anywhere we stayed

in our jammies we went down to the tree we just enjoyed opening gifts and this is how we did it if you bought or made a gift for someone you take it to them and present it to them and then you get to watch we all get to watch as they open that gift and then the next person and then the next person we started learning to ask a different question at Christmas time of our kids and other kids we started asking what was the favorite gift that you gave this Christmas you know the other question that too many people love to ask kids but it just started to change their mindset and what did we do with December 25th it became a day of giving I’ll share a few ideas that we did um one or more years we took our kids and served meals at the local rescue mission we talked to them December 25th is Jesus birth supposedly Jesus birthday when we

celebrate and it’s about giving to others we took homemade goodies to the 9-1-1 operators who had to work Christmas day and the police officers in the fire department and we thanked them we know that you’re a it’s a sacrifice you’re not at home with your family thank you for serving our community today we visited nursing homes and we would ask the supervisors tell us which of your residents has no family in town they won’t get any visitors today and we became their family we knocked on their door we had a plate of cookies we sang Christmas carols and we went in and visited with them and if they would let us we would pray with them one year we took candy to the local jail enough for all the officers and the inmates we would often go visit grandma and grandpa when they were in the nursing homes on Christmas day we

would prepare a meal in our home and invite singles and people who don’t have family in the area new people in church and widows and whoever God would put on our heart to invite and so we would join together and make the meal and serve others on that day I don’t know what can you do to help make Christmas into a season that is shaping you into a generous person shaping your kids and your family and your grandkids into generous people I want to leave you with some questions you could ask yourself when is the last time I took a serious look at how much I’m giving am I coming to God empty-handed am I tipping God or tithing do I want to give more to God and this is a key question do I want to give more to God and you and your honest answer may be no but at least ask yourself if not why not because again it’s a heart issue what

are my excuses for not tithing can I or can we bump up our percentage this next year I told you that the church gives 11 this year I’d love for it to be 12 next year and 13 the next and 14 the next the last church I served at they had dropped down to 2 in in their giving away before they realized what had happened and they said our goal is 20 and they bumped it up one percent a year just to practice what they preach like we teach giving a percentage but we also practice that we can do that in our families as well is this all I can give does my giving reflect generosity am I doing my part to make sure that the church has an abundance how much do you want me to give this is a key question ask God I’m not here to tell you what you should give ask God seriously God what do you want us to give what would be right for us there are seasons in our

life when we come needy and all we just we need help we have nothing to give but there are also seasons when we have an abundance and we want to ask God what do you want me to give does the way we celebrate Christmas reflect a heart of generosity I don’t know maybe those questions will help you process some of what Malachi is saying today and then a few suggested practices give some of your money to God this week it doesn’t have to be a lot but just something letting go of some money and just saying God I love you I want to express love for you by giving to you make a plan for giving regularly maybe as you think about January and the new year and you get all the Christmas gifts paid off and you’re thinking about what the next year’s going to look like you’re going to be able to give more if you have a plan some

people call it a budget or a spending plan but sit down and look at your income and your expenses the third would be give some money to a needy person this week again I would say you do this because of what it does for you not for them okay it just put it out of your mind whether they’re going to use it wisely or squander it or buy this or buy that with it just give it away because that act of opening your hand and handing some of your money to some stranger does something to you in your formation of becoming more like Christ talk about giving with your kids they should know if you tithe and or give and how much and who you support financially and why you do that how about reevaluating the way that you celebrate Christmas again I said it before God’s desire is not first of all for your money it’s for your heart

and as an expression of love then you might find yourself that you want to become more and more generous in your giving this is Francis havergal she was an English poet and a hymn writer from the 1800s starting at four years of age she began to memorize scripture eventually she memorized the psalms Isaiah and most of the new testament she wrote hymns like these like a river glorious who is on the lord’s side and take my life and let it be you notice the jewelry box next to her in this picture she writes that she called it a jewelry cabinet and she says it was fit for a countess and then one day God said I want you to get rid of that I want you to give that away and so she did and she began to write the words of a song that go like this take my life and let it be consecrated lord to thee take my moments and my days let them flow in ceaseless

praise let them flow in endless praise take my silver and my gold not a might would I withhold take my intellect and use every power as thou shalt choose take myself and I will be ever only all for thee she understood that at the core of being a generous person is giving our life to God that’s really what he wants our heart our life everything about us and maybe you’ve been listening this morning and you’ve been thinking about giving and other gifts and Christmas but the deeper question is does God have your life have you ever come to the point where you’ve said you can have it all God yeah it includes my money and my savings and my health and my resources you can have it all I just want to give it all to you that’s what this song is about let’s stand and sing together

Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 3)2022-01-13T14:57:22-07:00

Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 2)

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it’s always got a little bit more to go than you think it’s there we go it’s done so I’m going to start us today with a passage it’s a passage that is distinctly strange if you have been a person that’s tracked and read through the bible it’s maybe a passage you may never even have read before when I picked it made sense when I looked at it this week to kind of figure out why I picked it I was like wow you really wanted to suffer today didn’t you this passage is not an easy one and so if I if I just give up and walk off stage you know why here we go josh uh sorry Zechariah chapter six verse nine if you’re following along you can open with me the word of the lord came to me take silver and gold from the exiles hell dyer tobaja and jediah even just that passage was hard to say who have arrived from Babylon go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah take the silver and gold and make a crown and set it on the head of the high

priest Joshua son of josodak tell him this is what the lord almighty says here is the man whose name is the branch and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the lord it is he who will build the temple of the lord and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne and he will be a priest on his throne and there will be harmony between the two the crown will be given to heldair tobajaya jidaya and hen son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the temple of the lord those who are far away will come and help build the temple of the lord and you will know that the lord almighty has sent me to you this will happen if you diligently obey the lord your god let us pray because that is going to take some work Jesus as we open this book that you’ve given us you have breathed into this it has come alive would you use it to

shape us as a community would you use us to shake it to shape us this advent season would you speak to your people guide us and shape us amen so what on earth does Zechariah chapter 6 verse 9 onwards have to say to us today in the 21st century if anything the passages we read it just seems kind of outdated maybe anachronistic it just feels like something that doesn’t fit much doesn’t have much to say to us today and what does it have to say in this season called advent so before we get to that first a little bit on advent so for those of you that have tracked with us for a while those of you that have stuck around the last year or so that I’ve been journeying with you may have noticed that I’m a fairly big fan of this thing called the liturgical calendar so we don’t follow it like religiously and if you grew up in a catholic church there may

be party that says I don’t know if I like that at all I didn’t come here for that there’s a great reason we follow the liturgical calendar at least in part the liturgical calendar protects you and it protects you from me it protects you from me because you may have noticed this may have picked it up I’m quite upbeat like the joke in the office is that when I try and pretend that I’m mad about something it doesn’t really come across particularly well I still say it with this silly grin on my face I’m just not very good at those kind of things and for the most part I am I respond positively to almost everything and so the danger is if I just bring my general personality to the to the stage to the teaching every single week all you get is positive and upbeat you get that repeatedly and often that doesn’t mean there won’t be times that I go

through crisis times I go through struggle times I go through grief but for the most part what you’ll get is upbeatness and that’s fine to a point but the truth is there are seasons of life where that’s absolutely not what you need you need someone who can walk with you through those journeys of difficulty of strife of angst and the liturgical calendar it forces us down those pathways it forces us into places that we may not choose to grow for those of you that have done enneagram as a personality test I’m an enneagram seven I run massively away from talking about grief and struggle I don’t like doing it and yet here I am in this season called advent because advent is not Christmas Christmas is these things Christmas is presence light and it is the joy of the word now it is god’s entry into the world in this spectacular way I picked

a passage from one of my favorite novels one that I read every year a Christmas carol by Charles dickens this is ebenezer scrooge’s nephew Fred speaking Christmas is the only time of year time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they were really fellow passengers to the grave and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys and therefore uncle though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket I believe it has done me good and will do me good and I say god bless it that is Christmas it is presence it is light and it is joy advent is not those things I would suggest on our journey to Christmas advent is these things advent is absence and it is darkness and is the heart rendering

cry of when will these things happen we get in this season we are journeying with some of the prophets from the old testament if you’re unfamiliar with the term prophet prophets were mainly people who did fourth telling they mainly said to society you need to operate in a different way to how you’re operating now and occasionally they had these moments where they would predict in a specific way the future but they were always people that waited so we are doing advent in the company of professional waiters as it were these are people that knew what it was to wait for god’s coming in the world and at advent we get to join them and say we wait also we join with people who waited once and we too are people that wait for the coming of a king who said he will return another time constantly in this season this thing called the

church has talked about Jesus second coming that someday there is this story that is still to be complete and so we return as it were to waiting and we recognize that in that we may experience absence we may experience darkness we may experience this cry of when god will you do these things the writing of the writer Fleming Rutledge said advent begins in the dark Adam begins in the dark and in the midst of that darkness the light of Christmas springs up all the brighter because of that time in the darkness and yet the church wrestles with that thing in many ways the western church is an enneagram seven just like I am it is a organization that doesn’t like to talk about struggle and darkness we often pretend that we are above it as she unpacks this idea she talks about her experience in new York in the 80s and she talks about how

grand central station this incredibly beautiful building became a homeless encampment the benches that were formally occupied by people reading books waiting for trains were suddenly occupied by people just trying to find a warm place in which to sleep but she said what was remarkable about this was that was the ground floor and above that there was a mezzanine level sat high above it and there you could enjoy coffee for the equivalent of ten or 12 today and you could pretend that you were separate from the world that existed on the ground floor you could sit high above it and look down on the humanity that was there struggling and suffering well you stayed free from it and she said that to me is the church of today separate from the struggles of the world separate from its sense of absence and darkness and its cry of

when and perhaps we have returned to that somewhat a little bit this is los Angeles where you can drive towards the fashion and toy district while going past a huge homeless encampment of people and maybe we learn what it is to be indifferent to that and see that it is normal and I wrestle with that just personally as well right I wrestle with the fact that the other day I found one of our homeless friends that live in the area around us they were kind of hiding out in the building just trying to stay somewhere the day before thanksgiving and I said well I need to lock up the building I need to make sure that no one’s going to trigger the alarms and essentially I need you to leave and she started telling me what she felt like she needed could I put her up in a hotel room for a night could I find a way to give her something extra to sleep with and I

wrestle with the sense that I feel like I’m cored like Jesus to care for those that are the least and I wrestle with my own personal desire to get back to my family because it’s thanksgiving and I want to start my thanksgiving holiday I want to celebrate I want to pretend that those things don’t happen that they’re not there there’s that tension that the church and we as individuals find right so what I would suggest is that in advent we have this practice we who would call ourselves follower of followers of followers of Jesus and and that may not be everyone here or watching and that’s fine but we who would call ourselves children of light perhaps we live in the light of Jesus resurrection in advent the children of light refuse to live above the darkness around us in advent we refuse to live above the darkness around us we choose to enter into it

that isn’t just people that are homeless by the way that isn’t just one particular element that is the fact that each and every one of us each and every one of you has people in their life that in this advent season are wrestling with the approach of Christmas they are wrestling with the fact that they know that instinctively Christmas should be about presence and it should be about light and it should be about now but for them in this season it is about absence it is about darkness and it is about when we talked last week about Christmas as a force multiplier if you have had a great year what does Christmas do for you it makes it even better the joys the successes the wins you have had maybe the birth of a new child a new family member a new job a new group of friends a new community a new house any of those things Christmas comes

along and it brings that joy into greater relief but if it hasn’t been a good year the potential is the impending coming of Christmas it makes it tough it makes a bad year even worse all of those things those struggles may be a divorce maybe a death maybe a sickness maybe the loss of a home maybe the loss of job any of those things maybe Christmas comes along and it is a force multiplier it brings it out of relief and makes you cry when will these things change when will there be a different story Christmas is a force multiplier it makes a good year better and a bad year worse advent is an alternative season of waiting for light in the midst of darkness we wait together as a community we practice what it is to wait so what on earth does all of that have to do with Zechariah chapter six in this moment where Zachariah comes and

speaks to a community so I would suggest to understand that there’s probably a chunk of context that you may need and if you’re pretty unfamiliar with the whole church thing you may not know that central to most of this part of the bible we call the old testament the Jewish people would call their bible there is this whole story centered around a building it starts off with a tent of meeting it continues to be a tabernacle and finally there is this moment where this Jewish people build what is called the temple to understand just how central the temple is needs means that we need to grasp some of the just the enormity of it or the spectacularness of it it’s estimated that half the gold the known supply of gold in its day was in that one building not just half the gold in Israel half the gold in the entire world was used to help build

this temple that is a picture of its spectacular spectaculars its incredible nature it was this work of art and it was central to everything these Jewish people knew but more than that it was the place where god was present it was the place where god was present so let’s have a look at this passage from second chronicles chapter seven when Solomon finished praying this is the dedication of the temple fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices and the glory of the lord filled the temple the priests could not enter the temple of the lord because the glory of the lord filled it when all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the lord above the temple they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground and they worshipped and gave thanks to the lord saying he is good his love endures

forever remember that passage he um he is good his love endures forever remember the passage I couldn’t remember after just reading it a second ago this is this moment where god’s presence enters this temple this building for the first time and that changes everything you might say this for these Jewish people the temple was presence light and it was now in the same we talked about we talked about Christmas the temple was presence it was light and it was now so what happens to a people when a building is central and it is no longer there suddenly the absence of that building leads to all of the things we just talked about being about advent it is now absence and it is darkness and it is when it’s almost impossible I would suggest for us to fully understand just how much the loss of this building changed the narrative for

these people the closest maybe I could give you as an example was 911 the moment that the twin towers felt the centerpiece of the skyline of new York city something changed about the feel of the city and perhaps about the American psyche in that moment and that’s just maybe just a tiny picture of what it was for this group of people to lose their temple their centerpiece everything that their nation gathered around because god was present there and now suddenly absence darkness and this cry of when and this cry starts to starts to appear in all of the literature ridden this is psalm 79 how long o lord will you be angry forever how long will your jealousy burn like fire pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you on the kingdoms that do not call on your name for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his

homeland they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland this is what happened to this group of people in this story that we’re building up towards Zechariah’s time and so last week we wrestled with this promise of a prophet called Micah but you Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are small among the clans of Judah out of you will come for me a ruler whose origins are from old from ancient times Micah’s constant warning to this group of people was if you keep acting like this judgment will come things will go badly for you but even when it does eventually someone will come and bring a rescue someone will come and change the narrative again and this person he will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the lord in the majesty of the name of the lord his god and they will live securely for then his greatness will

reach to the ends of the earth it’s about expectation this thing that is still to come so we understand expectation especially at Christmas time right I did the adventurous thing the other day I climbed upon my roof and put all the Christmas lights up it was you know me versus the roof I’m there hovering over the edge at different points and and at one point laura said to me are you not going to put them around the other side I was like well the the other side has a 30-foot drop are you sure you want me on the other side I mean I feel I should check life insurance policies and everything before I get around there and and as I’m most of the way through this project I have this moment where I remember I didn’t check the lights worked before I put them up there like that’s like rookie stuff like that’s error number one you always check the

lights I mean I trust amazon kinda but I hadn’t checked them and so then there is the moment where you get to plug them in and you get either the answer to your expectations or the failing of your expectations that’s just a a minor picture an everyday example of just generally how expectations can affect that Christmas season but for these guys expectation is now building around something a prophet has said years ago you might say Micah’s words could be understood as wait for a time when your past will become your present wait for the story to be recovered wait for a new thing to emerge but these people often captivity who finally return I would suggest that’s not what the experience Samaria fell in 701 and Jerusalem in 597 bc there’s this moment where it seems like all of the dreams are dashed and then in 587 king

nebuchadnezzar comes back to Jerusalem and he destroys the temple he lays it to the ground he takes away everything valuable and most of the people it seems like the story dies there again lurking in the back though some kind of promise and remarkably miraculously these people do return in a sort of world system where every king every conqueror has said this what you do is you take the people you’ve conquered and you transplant them to other areas because they have no loyalty to that land and they’ll just allow you to continue to rule them there is no risk in that someone comes along and says no we’re going to do this differently we’re going to send people back to the land that they’re from because they’ll actually be more loyal to the land and more caring over it nurturing of it if it if it’s their land somehow this people

find their way back and the first thing they do is begin to build this temple again this thing that has been the centerpiece they start to raise it up from the ground this story is captured in a book called Ezra when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the lord the priests in their apparel with trumpets and the Levites with symbols took their positions to praise the lord as David king of Israel had prescribed and they sang responsively with praise and thanksgiving to the lord for he is good for his loving devotion to Israel endures forever remember those words you’ve heard them before then all the people gave a great shout of praise to the lord because the foundation of the house of the lord had been laid this is a good story right this is what we’re hoping for this is a story that has become broken and surely now it

has been rebuilt this is good news the old song is sung we remember this moment where the old song was sung and the presence of god filled the building surely this is a good story but ezra goes on to say this but many of the older priests and levites and family heads who had seen the former temple wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid while many others shouted for joy those who had seen the old story wept aloud because the new story doesn’t live up to the old story the new temple doesn’t live up to the old temple the old song is sung but this new story this new story is a disappointment and maybe an advent that kind of captures our attention maybe there’s new stories that you are living this year that you might say in your honest moments they don’t meet the old story standards the foundation has been

laid but it’s not the same as the old foundation maybe the new group of friends isn’t as good as the old group of friends maybe that story hasn’t lived up to what you told maybe the second marriage isn’t as good as the first marriage maybe the new house you don’t like it as much as the old house maybe the new business the new job it doesn’t seem like it fits maybe there’s just something in your life that that has changed in this year that you’re like seems like the old story was better it seems like this story doesn’t live up to that Zechariah speaks to a people facing a new reality that disappointed their expectations that disappointed their expectations and maybe that’s us at times too there’s expectations we have expectations of a news story we think might be emerging we’re like it’s not not what I hoped is this it that’s the cry of these

people is this it god remember the old temple remember half the gold in existence remember the size the glory of it remember what happened when we sang these songs before and now we’re doing those things again and this is it this is the foundation this isn’t this isn’t what I’m here for is this all you have for us this is the group of people that Zechariah is speaking to and this text that we read earlier is what he gives them and the text is strange because I would suggest the first half that we read is grounded in everyday reality it talks about historical people and then just as prophets often do somewhere in that Zechariah starts speaking not about historical people not about events in front of him but about things that are happening that can’t necessarily be seen yet but will happen one day the word of the lord came to me takes

silver and gold from the exiles heldair tobaja and jedi that’s the first time I’ve said all the names right who have arrived from Babylon go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah take the silver and gold and make a crown and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua son of josodak all of those historical people historical things that could be happening and then he says this tell him this is what the lord almighty says here is the man whose name is the branch he uses this piece of language that slowly over time in the language of Israel is becoming to mean something very specific often in the old testament we’ll read this idea of a branch and it is this I idea that is specific specifically messianic it is this idea that is slowly developing that god will send someone to bring his people into a different story into a new story Zechariah in this

moment in the midst of a story that’s disappointing in the midst of a new story that seems like it’s not complete starts to say there’s still a story emerging here is a man whose name is the branch this idea of branch is this Hebrew word samak it’s a sprout it’s growth it’s something that’s still growing a sign that something is alive it’s a sign that something is alive it’s as though god says know this story I’m growing here it’s still developing there are still things happening it’s not the first time that Zechariah has used this word in chapter three he said this listen high priest Joshua you and your associates seated before you who are men you are men of symbolic things to come I’m going to bring my servant the branch this story again starting to emerge this idea shoot this is Isaiah a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse from his roots a branch

will bear fruit the spirit of the lord will rest on him the spirit of wisdom and of understanding the spirit of counsel and of might the spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the lord and he would delight in the fear of the lord Jeremiah later will say similar things the days are coming declares the lord when I will raise up for David a righteous branch a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land in his days Judah will be saved Israel will live in safety this is the name by which he will be called the lord our righteous savior these are all passages that later writers would come to see as reflecting Jesus and his advent his coming into the world it’s this idea that’s starting to develop in this Jewish literature that’s emerging and all point towards this idea this new story is a disappointment but this new story isn’t finished this

new story isn’t finished this story isn’t finished because this story is still growing this story is still growing and I wonder in advent in a season where we reflect on darkness when we reflect on absence when we reflect on this cry of when whether that idea isn’t something that you and I deeply need as well I would suggest whatever the tension is with your story it is still growing and it isn’t finished yet I love thinking about how creativity emerges how different people I’m always amazed by people’s creative abilities and the author Malcolm Gladwell does a bit of an investigation on this where he looks at how genius develops or how it works specifically about how time is needed by some types of geniuses and not by others he unpacks a whole conversation had by this guy whose name is Leonard Cohen with this guy whose name is bob

Dylan so Leonard Cohen some of you may be aware wrote that famous song hallelujah it’s the one that gets sung at every single talent show on television somebody will always sing hallelujah and I thought I would sing it for you this morning I’m not going to do that no one would allow that to happen there’s limits to my abilities to make things happen that would be a terrible idea we’d empty the building but you’ve heard it multiple times that song with its just delightful contemplation on a human experience human existence Leonard Cohen when meeting bob Dylan happened to say to bob Dylan bob I love your song blowing in the wind how long did it take you to write that song and bob Dylan being bob Dylan said 15 minutes I was on a plane there was a napkin in front of me I thought you know what I’m just gonna pen down

some lyrics and this song emerged in a moment just boom there it was just create it and then bob Dylan looks at Leonard Cohen and says I love your song hallelujah which was remarkable because at this point nobody had heard of hallelujah hallelujah didn’t even become famous till a guy called jeff Buckley did a cover of it and even then it took jeff Buckley committing suicide for it to really gain any mainstream sort of attraction it was an unknown song and yet Dylan was captivated by some of the lyrics that Leonard Cohen had used and so he says how long did it take you to write hallelujah and then Leonard Cohen kind of hangs his head and he says two years and he was lying it took him six he could never quite get the lyrics right he wrote 60 different verses and he would change which verses he wanted to use and sometimes he would

drop the religious image imagery and sometimes he would keep it he was constantly playing with this thing trying to get it to make sense bob Dylan creates in a moment Leonard Cohen it takes him a long time to produce this genius the thing has to grow same is true of these two artists this is Paul Cezanne and this is Pablo Picasso both considered geniuses though my art confession is this I love art but I think Picasso is terrible I don’t know what this is as a piece of art it’s just I’m just baffled that this is famous but regardless both of them considered geniuses Picasso creates in a moment he sits in his studio and he throws paint on the screen and onto the canvas he just comes out of him like that Cezanne takes forever his portraits would take him 150 different sessions to complete he’d leave artwork sitting there for years and then come

back to it and change it and tweak it finally he would get to what he thought was that masterpiece and when he said how he how he judged his art was this he would look at it and he would put it alongside something god had made and say does it fit there and if it didn’t it was terrible he’d destroy it and if it did he’d celebrate because he said I’m just trying to pull out the incredibleness of god’s creation Cezanne takes time Picasso in a moment Leonard Cohen takes time bob Dylan in a moment and as I think about that I wonder which of those is god more like or which of those is more like god because god does have this capacity clearly to create in a moment we read these stories and yet my experience of interacting with god is this it takes time he has changed me over the years I have developed it has been a hard and difficult

process mainly because I must be hard and difficult to work with but he’s still growing a story inside me and he’s still growing a story inside of you and without knowing who Leonard Cohen was or who Paul Suzanne was Zechariah seems to say to this group of people god is still growing a story and at times that takes time the story is still growing your story is still growing wherever you are in those different journeys it seems like god is still at work the story isn’t finished yet the story isn’t finished yet the new story is disappointing because the new story isn’t finished there is still a story that has to emerge and then Zechariah goes on to say something that maybe even more cryptic that we’ll just wrestle with for just a moment it is he who will build the temple of the lord and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne

and he will be a priest on his throne there’s this idea in Zechariah about the coming together of kingship and the priesthood now in Israel’s history there had been a tension here from the beginning the first king of Israel a guy called Saul had killed a huge chunk of the priests and then gone into the nearest town and killed everyone in that town as well so from that time the tension there between these two different types of rulers was pretty present pretty obvious at different points somewhere the idea of Zechariah is someone will come along who will bring these two things together and as these ideas develop as people these Jewish people waited as we wait for this person called messiah the idea became that he would be a king yes but a priest also but how do those two things how do those two streams those two ideas fit together he

says that this person will come and do something within the temple he will build the temple he will make it what it will be and yet this temple is never the same quality or level as the temple that they had before people become very attached to it but not in the same way as they did the first temple but still the story of what the temple was and then Jesus stands amongst a group of people a few hundred years later and he says these words destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again let’s just go back to the verse before on account of this the Jews demanded what sign can you show us to prove your authority to do these things Jesus answered destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again this temple took 46 years to build the Jews replied and you are going to raise it up in three days but Jesus was speaking

about the temple of his body ultimately the idea within the bible is this that the temple is no longer the centerpiece of god’s presence Jesus describes his body his death his resurrection as replacing all of those things he takes over the duties of priesthood and here’s the good news in that I do not stand between you and god my job is not to enter the intermediate intermediary for you have this direct access created by this Jesus story that is emerging it’s almost as if Zachariah seeing the future can see that the temple isn’t the main story at all this story just lurks behind the scenes for 400 years 500 years and then emerges in Jesus who comes and fulfills that role of yes both king but also a priest the tension of course for all of these people had they been able to get to this point had they lived for 500 years or so to see Jesus emerges I

suspect their reaction may just have been the same as it was to this second temple that was built I think they would have seen Jesus and said is this it is this who you promised us because this doesn’t look like we want their longing was for a military king who would overthrow the romans and I wonder if sometimes our own longing goes in that direction as well I wonder how often we find tension with this Jesus who brings a kingdom that doesn’t work on the world’s terms that doesn’t operate in the way that we would like it to operate this is an upside down kingdom a strange kind of kingdom perhaps the thing that compels me about Jesus the most is I’ve yet to see a king that displays this kind of humility a god that displays this kind of humility because everything I experience in the world and everything that I see across history is god’s

making themselves bigger and higher and yet Jesus comes and he makes himself lower and that’s maybe one of the things that is so compelling about him but this promise of a of a messiah that will come and bring kingship and priesthood it is met and answered in Jesus who says forget about the temple that’s not the central thing I’m the central thing here I’m creating a finished story and that story ultimately it finds its culmination in this book revelation in chapter 21 and he carried me away in the spirit to a mountain great and high and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from god shining with the glory of god but I saw no temple in the city because the lord god almighty and the lamb are its temple god is wonderful at finishing his story and wherever the tension points in your story are just like for

these people back then I would suggest they’re there because this god isn’t finished with that story yet your story is still growing and in the midst of that for you and I this king this priest this one who has replaced the old systems who is continuing to grow and birth this story stands before the god of the universe and says I’m the intermediary I don’t need anyone on earth I play that role too now as well this is Hebrews we’ll finish with this and I’ll invite the worship team to come back on stage therefore since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven Jesus the son of god let us hold firmly to the faith we profess for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are yet he did not sin let us then approach god’s throne of

grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need this picture that we’re given of Jesus in the moment where our story seems broken and fractured in a moment of disappointment where we say the news story isn’t as good as the old story it seems like this Jesus says I know exactly how you feel I know where you are I know all that you’re experiencing this Jesus comes alongside us in that moment of deep need and reminds us that the story is still growing the story is still developing and with that we get to walk to this thing that in some places is called mass in some places it’s called communion in some places is called the lord’s supper but is often called eucharist and that’s the expression I would choose today because eucharist is about grace today you come to a table of grace and

before we do that there’s a few questions that I would love to invite you to ask the first question is in this advent season where we are walking towards light and presence and now in the season of darkness and absence and when what is it that you are grieving in this season what news story doesn’t quite meet the expectations of the old story what is it that is still to be hoped for where do I see god growing this story where do I see signs of life of this story still emerging and need where do I need to nurture that life where is god’s story still continuing and maybe something to reflect on how do I grieve the old story live in the new story while anticipating the finished story whatever you need as I invite you to this table this is a table of grace this is a table of finished stories and imagine Jesus in this moment as he does this for the

first time with his followers is that story finished that predates crucifixion predates resurrection in the midst of his own story of trauma and pain of death Jesus sits with his earliest fellows and says I see the finished story the story is still growing so I’m going to invite you to come to the table as the team lead us and you’re going to go back to your seats and we’re going to take the elements together and then we’re going to finish with a celebration of a high priest who has changed everything for us because the presence of god is no longer about a building the presence of god is centered in each of our hearts as we know what it is to follow him so let’s pray on the night that he was betrayed Jesus gathered with his earliest followers and sitting with them he took the bread and he handed it to each of them he said this is my body broken

for you in the same way he took the cup handing it to each of them said this is my blood shed for the sins of the world as long as you gather together do this in remembrance of me as you come to this table of grace today may you come bring your disappointments may God create hope of a new story still developing in you god for my friends who need healing may this table speak of healing for my friends wrestling with disappointment may this table bring new hope for those wrestling with sin may this table speak of forgiveness for those wrestling with broken relationships may this table bring reconciliation for those wrestling with angst may this table bring peace I thank you for your table of grace which provides for us as you come dan and Yvonne will be on either side of the stage if you would like prayer for anything you can come and receive prayer when you’ve come and got your elements take them back to your seat and we’ll take them together amen

Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 2)2022-01-13T13:44:38-07:00

Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 1)

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TRANSCRIPT

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Good morning, friends how are you doing today? If you’re visiting my name’s Alex, I’m one of the pastors here it’s great to have you here we’re making this transition from the season of fall thanksgiving into potentially at some point of winter if the weather ever drops below 60 degrees but we’re making this movement and hopefully you guys had a great thanksgiving. I got to deep fry a turkey for the fourth year in a row and I always say this is like my one day of kind of tapping into some kind of hillbilly type side to me I’m just I’m more likely to wear a plaid on this day and stuff like that and I drop this turkey and I just feel really manly that’s the downside was it’s got a little boring after four years now it just feels normal so I got to do that though and it was delicious and wonderful and then and I have to say this because it’s been nine years I got to watch Michigan beat Ohio state yesterday and yeah go blue even in Colorado and so there was this deep joy and now I’m navigating for myself this movement towards advent and many of you will be navigating the same ways perhaps in controversial ways within your own house I have a principle we do not decorate before the 1st of December that’s just locked in my head my wife has a different principle and so out of the goodness of my charity and all those types of things uh we decided we would decorate earlier this year and so the stuff’s starting to come up but here’s the tension really advent this season in the church calendar and if that word is familiar unfamiliar to you it literally means this approach of God’s advent his entrance into the world in Jesus advent traditionally

is not a season of bright lights advent is a season where we recognize that there is darkness both in the world around us and within our own hearts and you don’t have to go very far to find it advent has not generally been a season where we sing all Christmas songs so all through advent what you’ll get is the tension of songs that we will sing that reflect the idea of the coming of Jesus the wonderful words of that last song we sang here comes heaven this approach of god into the world you’ll see the lights of Christmas and all those sorts of things and yet there will be some darkness to the conversations that we will have during this time so much so that I think I scared away half the first service this morning I’m not sure some of them will come back to be honest it got a little heavy if it gets too heavy for you know where the doors are I’m not sure what I can do about it at this point it is what it is but it was weighty so we start with this idea here what are our expectations of Christmas maybe what are our expectations of advent as well and how is that impacted by reality this conversation will allow us to tap into some of the struggle into some of the darkness what are our expectations at Christmas because whether they are spoken or whether they’re just somewhere in the back of your mind you have them you have expectations of what a good Christmas season looks like maybe it just reflects back on some of the things you experienced in your childhood especially if you had a good childhood you might say there’s things that I look back on and I long to create the same moments I experienced for my kids or my grandkids and these

things can be pretty weird they don’t have to be uniform at all my dad always bought loads of nuts at Christmas like he would go to the store and he would come back with like baskets of nuts and he would put them all over the house I don’t even like nuts but something about Christmas makes me want to buy them because he taps somewhere back into some of my childhood experience I have one memory of Christmas from around the time of seven or eight where I won this mammoth game of monopoly I’m talking about a game that went on for hours and hours that’s actually just monopoly all the time it always goes on for hours and hours and we got to the finish at like two o’clock in the morning and I won I was victorious and it makes me want to play monopoly at Christmas as for winning I’d like to just finish a game of monopoly with kids you just feel like I don’t know if I’ve ever finished a game of monopoly I always do the good parenting thing where I put everything into little envelopes and say we’ll start again tomorrow kids and we never do but there’s all these weird little things that we may tap into and say that signals Christmas to me and if I get to eat these foods and I get to be with these people and have these experience then therefore it has been a good Christmas maybe if you wanted to summarize these into some categories we might say this at Christmas we want to be around family we want to experience wealth and when I say wealth I don’t necessarily mean excess I just mean having enough and we want to experience health and one of those three missing can definitely throw off our experience if you

find yourself lonely at Christmas there is that sense of this doesn’t feel right if you find yourself not having enough at Christmas that in itself can throw you off my neighbors are currently throwing up decorations all over their house and in good American fashion I’m trying to keep up with everybody around me because that’s how you know you’ve been successful right and I thought I had a chance to one of my neighbors drove into our cul-de-sac with a crane lift on the back of his truck uh and there he was 500 a day splashing decorations everywhere and at that point I gave up and surrendered but wealth can just mean that you want to have the same things everybody else has and then of course health those times where you sick at Christmas can make you think wow what is going on here i feel like something is out of whack especially if that sickness leads you to question just how many more Christmases you’ll get to experience these things are what you might call reality and they hit our expectations or our understanding of Christmas now here’s what’s interesting think about things that you do at Christmas many of you will tap into watching a bunch of Christmas movies most of the movies you watch at Christmas they’re not normal expectations get thrown out of the window with these types of movies they’re not normal at all so we have the wonderful home alone what is home alone really about it’s about a couple of thieves who are so intent on one house that they’ll attack one small child in the midst of this incredible drama instead of just walking away it’s a break from what’s normal at Christmas to something over

the top and absurd there’s die hard and I don’t know if die hard is a Christmas movie in Colorado I mean jury’s outright some people yes some people know it’s as controversial as pineapple on pizza I believe but there is this this moment where suddenly a simple Christmas party everything again goes out the window expectations are cast aside not by reality but by absurdity there’s the Santa Claus a normal everyday guy suddenly finds out that he is the new Santa Claus and he’s inherited this through some kind of tradition that’s been running for years and years and then even this newer movie this is the Christmas chronicles has this weirdness to it it’s the extravagance of Christmas meets a family in their mundaneness in their normalness and this Santa Claus somehow rescues this family that are going through family drama and struggle he rescues them into the spirit of Christmas or some kind of high idea like that none of these are really about reality meeting expectation they’re about absurdity meeting expectation and yet in our moments of experience in Christmas when everyday life encounters what our expectations are I wonder if it just really throws us off what happens when reality meets our expectations what happens when our picture of an ideal Christmas season is met by some part of life that we didn’t expect to turn up at that moment maybe some of the best Christmas movies actually deal with this struggle this is a picture of the family stoner a movie that wrestles with what it is to fall in love with someone you’re not supposed to fall in love with but also wrestles with what it is to

have death in the midst of the Christmas season what does it mean when a family loses someone who is deeply beloved and there is an absence around the Christmas tree the Bing Crosby song I’ll be home for Christmas finishes with this poignant additional line it’s the image of a soldier in world war ii imagining that he might return home and all of the things he wants to experience during that season he wants mistletoe he wants snow he wants all of these different things that make his Christmas perfect and then he ends with this poignant line I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams it’s this moment of realization that he won’t be home at Christmas that he may never get home for Christmas the struggle with this Christmas season is Christmas is a force Christmas is a force multiplier what does that mean it means this if you’ve had a good year Christmas makes it better if good things your general experience of 2021 has been I’ve had all of these joys to celebrate maybe you’ve had good health maybe you’ve had a new addition to your family maybe something has changed in a relationship all of these different things take place and you get to Christmas and you get to celebrate but if you’ve had a bad year what does that mean if you’ve experienced struggle if you’ve experienced things that aren’t ideal well then Christmas has the potential to make a bad year worse I knew this early on in my experience of pastoral ministry I was running a Christmas event and on Christmas eve about 11 o’clock in the evening someone called me and said I’m leaving the church the person who called me just happened to be running

all of our Christmas event for us the next day and suddenly in this moment said I just can’t keep doing this anymore so in my conversation I said there’s got to be a story behind the story tell me more and he went on to unpack that his wife had got into a conversation with another person on staff that he just didn’t like and that was enough for him to say at this point I’m out I’m done now was that thing itself enough to push him to this monumental decision absolutely not but so much else had been going on his life that when Christmas season came along suddenly it was like this increased weight suddenly it felt like everything might collapse it made everything a big deal this is what this Christmas season does it becomes a force multiplier that takes the good and magnifies it and it takes the bad and it magnifies it takes the good and it adds weight to it takes the bad and it adds weight to it we walk into this season and suddenly things that we didn’t expect to become a big deal become a big deal and when I experienced this for the first time in this conversation I called a friend later that week and said can I just ask do people act weird at Christmas when you’re a pastor and he said yes they do every Christmas and every easter he said I know that I’ll get some phone call with some piece of drama that actually wouldn’t have been a big deal at any other time of year as we walk through advent towards this season of Christmas we get to become aware of the number of ways that that affects us it affects our emotions affects our responses to things so what is the traditional response to that feeling how do we respond during the course

of this sermon I’m going to give you three possible ways that I think we could approach advent one is buried in this text in a book called Micah we’re about to look at but this first one I would suggest is the western way of dealing with it when we experience that sense of trauma when we experience struggle when we experience hardship when reality impacts our Christmas experience where it impacts our expectations I would suggest this is what we do we put up the lights and pretend it’s all right we put up the lights and we pretend it’s all right if you’ve got loads of how lights all over your house this isn’t this is meant more of a as a joke than an actual attack but I sometimes wondered if the more lights you have on your house the more struggles there are going on inside the walls sometimes it can just be a way of covering up all those different things or maybe just an excuse for me not to put any lights on my house this year but I wonder if that becomes our hypothesis put up the lights and pretend it’s all right if you want a question to reflect on as you encounter this season you may ask this how am I pretending how am I in this season pretending what have been my experiences of 2021 and as I come closer to this Christmas season how am I pretending I’m just okay with everything advent is an alternative season where the church in its history has experienced and embraced the idea of waiting we’ve celebrated this season where we build up towards Christmas and we recognize that a group of people the Jewish people waited for hundreds of years for this moment where the messiah would appear we recognize the

fact that for two thousand years since Jesus death and resurrection the church has waited for his return waited in the tension of what comes next but more than just waiting advent is an alternative season of waiting for light in the midst of darkness for light in the midst of darkness so during the season what we’re going to do over the next four weeks is we’re going to read alongside a group of men called prophets we’re going to read some of the minor prophets and we’re gonna embrace some of the ways they talked about Jesus before he appeared on earth and we’re gonna ask some questions about what that might mean for us today so if you have a text in front of you can turn to Micah chapter five uh it will come up on the screen when I read it through the second time but for now I’m just going to read it out loud for you when you turn to Micah chapter five in your bible it will probably say that five chapter five verse one starts off marshal your troops in the original Hebrew text that’s actually the last verse of chapter four so we’re going to start in verse 2 but you Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are small among the clans of Judah out of you will come from me one who will be ruler over Israel whose origins are from of old from ancient times therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites he will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the lord in the majesty of the name of the lord his god and they will live securely for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth let’s pray god as we read this text as we join with a group

of people who waited for hundreds and hundreds of years for a new light to appear in the world for something to happen we join them in our waiting as we prepare ourselves for this new season for this Christmas moment where on Christmas eve we celebrate your entrance and advent into the world prepare us to look and recognize that there is a world that experiences so much darkness and that often that darkness is our in our own hearts as well would you challenge us and form us would you comfort those of us that are afflicted would you afflict those of us that are comfortable most of all would you speak bring your presence amen so what can this text possibly mean for a group of people in the 21st century we just read a text that’s about 2700 years old that has some vague ideas about a future coming king now if you’ve been following Jesus for a fair while if you’ve been doing this church thing for a while you may just say instantly well we just read about Bethlehem that must be talking about Jesus and the answer is yes and or no because maybe it is to us but to a group of other people I would suggest it probably didn’t mean that originally before we get into that and note on what the word prophet means in the bible there are a bunch of books in the old testament that are called prophetic books written by a mixture of people called major and minor prophets that doesn’t mean some of them are important and some of them aren’t important it simply means that some of them wrote longer texts and some of them wrote shorter texts but we might start here a biblical prophet did lots of fourth telling along with some

foretelling lots of forth telling along with some foretelling so what does that mean for telling is really to proclaim against something to bring out some truth so these prophets for the most part would look at society and they would call out a bunch of ills in society they would point out the ways that people weren’t acting the way that god was calling them to act they would demand change if you want a picture today we’re talking far more far more along the lines of social activists than we are fortune tellers or the people that we may imagine this is what these people did they spoke to society but occasionally just occasionally there were moments where in a different way they spoke to something that was going to happen in the future now the tension line here is that they were always kind of talking about the future mostly along these lines if you continue to act like this bad things will happen to this nation again same language that you hear in many social reformers or social activists today if you keep acting like this things will go south very quickly and then occasionally they would point to these things that were actual events that were happening in the far off and the line isn’t always super clear this is a moment where Micah the prophet we just read will do that fourth telling peace as he has shown you o mortal what is he has shown you on water what is good and what does the lord require of you to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your guard right after a section where he points out all of the ways that these people aren’t doing these things he then says no this is what god is calling you to do this is the

life he is calling you to live this is forth telling and then there are those moments of foretelling which fits the passage that we just read today so i think we often when we hear foretelling picture this guy who’s available on every boardwalk and can tell your future precisely reportedly for a mere five dollars or something like that but we have these pictures of sort of these what we might call prophetic type people maybe sybil Trelawny from the harry potter movies something like that is these pictures of people that predict the future that just generally isn’t how prophecy worked in the old testament for the most part prophets would speak to what would happen if society continued as it was going and occasionally they would have those moments where in incredible ways god would give them some picture of the future but that picture was usually a little bit more blurred than we appreciate today there were usually lots of ways that that could be interpreted at its time and this passage is one of them but you Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are small along the clans of Judah out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel whose origins are from of old from ancient times you and I hear Bethlehem and we think Jesus a Jewish people when Micha was writing this here Bethlehem and they think David Micah wrote this in about 720 ish BC just before everything went terribly badly for the nation of Israel and then following that the nation of Judah in 701 BC the capital of Samaria uh the capital of Israel Samaria would be captured would be overthrown everything went very badly from there and the nation of

Judah had the same fate about a hundred years later Micah is speaking into a time of incredible trauma incredible brokenness and so when he says a ruler will come from Bethlehem every single Jewish person listening would say wait David came from Bethlehem and when we had David life was great when we had David other nations respected us when we had David things were on the up things were good if only if only we could have David again that would be where their directions that would be where their thoughts went and we’ll skip over this awkward little bit for just a second because it does get a little bit awkward therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites Michael will then go on to say he will stand and shepherd David was a shepherd his flock in the strength of the lord in the majesty of the name of the lord his god and they will live securely for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth there’s this moment where these first listeners to Micah would have said man god is promising us greatness again in the midst of our struggle in the midst of our brokenness god is promising us a preferred future and it will be just like when David was here you might say that the first to the first listeners Micah’s words could be understood as wait for a time when your past will become your present wait for a time when all the good things you’ve lost will be restored to you wouldn’t that tap into the cry of their heart and at times wouldn’t that promise tap in to the cries of our hearts if only I could go backwards if only

things could be as they used to be things were so much better when it was like before but then these awkward words that are just thrown there in the middle of this therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son how can he speak of these moments where everything’s going to be great again and at the same time speak of abandonment same time speak of tragedy same time speak of a nation whose god has left them this whole conversation reflects this constant tension point for these people in Israel and I would suggest a constant tension point for you and I as well when we experience moments where reality hits our expectations where things don’t feel like they should be they knew this god is an agent to the people of Israel that was without dispute god worked he did things and he was on their side for the most part too god was an agent who worked in the world so they could pray prayers like this this is Isaiah speaking at the same time as Micah within just a few years look at the language here oh that you would rend the heavens and come down that the mountains would tremble before you as when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil come down and make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you for when you did awesome things that we did not expect you came down and the mountains trembled before you since ancient times no one has heard no ear has perceived no I have seen any god besides you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him this was an articulation of another prophet who says god acts and he will act he’s acted in the

past and he’s going to act for us now god is an agent in the world he does things he works and yet at times for these people god is an agent who has gone missing why aren’t you doing it now why do you make us wait when will it happen we’ve been waiting for so long when does the action take place therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son and the rest of his brothers returned to join the Israelites when did the action take place just as it was for them when reality hits our expectations isn’t that our cry as well god why aren’t you doing something why aren’t you acting now why have you in the language of psalm 74 why have you put your hand in your pocket and just said I’m just gonna wait I’m just gonna wait as people we don’t like that tension point we want god to work when we want him to work and when he doesn’t we’re like I don’t know what to do with that in Samuel becket’s book waiting for god out there’s a conversation he imagines between two people who are waiting for some person to turn up they’re not sure who he is he might be god he might not be but they’re waiting and waiting and waiting and in the midst of their waiting in the midst of their conversation there’s this one moment where one of the speakers he gives this heart rendering cry he simply says nothing happens nobody comes nobody goes I’m waiting and waiting and it’s just it’s just waiting that’s all it is I wonder how many times these people that we first read about responding to Micah I wonder how many times in that moment of abandonment and that moment of it’s not all making

sense in that moment of god isn’t acting they were tempted to just say it’s never going to happen we’re just done with this thing because haven’t you and I felt close to that point as well or don’t you at least know people who have gotten to that point I just can’t wait anymore if god is an agent he should have acted by now and he hasn’t acted while we have the western approach that we talked about earlier the western approach to advent the western approach to reality hitting expectation which is to put on the lights and pretend it’s all right I think there’s a temptation to a different approach that is equally troubling I think that’s the approach of turn off the lights and embrace the night I can’t do this anymore can’t do this I can’t pretend that Christmas fixes things I can’t pretend that everything is okay I can’t keep going and so I’m just done I’m just done I can’t nobody comes nobody goes I can’t wait anymore I can’t keep waiting I wonder how this Jewish people felt after hundreds and hundreds of years of waiting hundreds and hundreds of years of telling the story when Micah writes it’s been 300 years since David lives and even if these people would come to believe that Jesus was the person he claimed to be at 700 years from Micah’s writing until Jesus appears isn’t that more waiting than people can be expected to do one lifetime after another lifetime passes and this group of people are still waiting for something and we might add experience lifetime after lifetime but isn’t there a cry in us that I’m still waiting for something and maybe we don’t even know what we’re waiting for maybe a question for reflection

might be what am I waiting for what am I waiting for nobody comes nobody goes it’s awful we just keep on waiting does god act will he act why does the world look the way it looks these are articulations that we may make deep in our own hearts questions that we might ask have I been abandoned did the god of the universe stop caring did he stop working for me at least there’s a struggle with this word abandoned this writer throws in this word abandoned and of course we’re working from an English translation of a Hebrew text I don’t love this translation abandoned I don’t think it gives it the full meaning and I think when we understand some of the full meaning maybe it gives us a third way of looking at this that isn’t just put on the lights and pretend it’s all right but doesn’t land and embrace the night doesn’t land in it’s all going to be awful forever maybe there’s another way that gives us some hope to move us towards Christmas this word abandoned it only appears translated like this once in the old testament in other places it’s translated more like this give them up to something allow them to go through something the language actually has a little bit more purpose than abandoned gives it there is this journey that somehow god is still involved in even though he isn’t necessarily completely visible in the story when we understand what Micah says that way it starts to tap in a little bit more to some other texts that we might think of when we think about this experience of night of darkness this is psalm 139 just one of my favorite texts if I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light becomes night around me even the

darkness will not be dark to you the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you this writer of the psalms pictures even in those moments of waiting that god is somewhere behind the scenes working somewhere he is inactive he may not be agent in a way that we can see but somewhere he is still acting this is a letter that nelson Mandela wrote to his wife as he was experienced this sense of abandonment in prison he said i wish i was in the position to tell you something that could gladden your heart and make you smile but as they see it we may have to wait a long time for that bright and happy moment in the meantime we must drink the bitter cup to the dregs perhaps no I am sure the good old days will come when life will sweeten our tongues and nurse our wounds I wish I was in the position to tell you something that could gladden your heart and make you smile but we may have to wait this is a man who at this point has been in prison for six years and will be in prison for another 20 years this is a man who in the season learns what it is to wait and I don’t know where he’s Jesus with his journey with following Jesus looks like at all but what I do see is a man who experiences what it is to sit in darkness and believe a new story can come from that darkness I wonder if that’s the direction we’re called to go at advent not to just pretend everything is fine not to give in to the defeat that nothing will ever change that nobody comes nobody goes and it’s just awful but I wonder if somewhere there’s a way in this season we get to do this I wonder if we can acknowledge the night but wait for the light I wonder if

we can acknowledge the night but wait for the light I wonder if we can allow ourselves in the midst of those experiences of darkness and struggle in those moments where reality hits our expectation in a way that we just don’t like and just feel shouldn’t be I wonder if there’s a possibility in that moment that we can wait and believe that light will appear 700 years these people of Israel would wait until this moment that a messiah would appear then most of the Jewish people didn’t believe it was him but so ingrained in their minds was the idea of Bethlehem with this messiah that when Jesus appears and somebody asks tell us where the messiah is born the answer his answer is just instantaneous this is Matthew chapter two after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judah during the time of king Herod Maggi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked where is the one who has been born king of the Jews we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him when king Herod heard that he was this he was disturbed in all Jerusalem with him when he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law he asked them where the messiah was to be born in Bethlehem in Judah they replied for this is what the prophet has written but you Bethlehem in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel for 700 years this text had lurked in the consciousness of these people in Israel and now in this moment it finally appears it’s no wonder that we write songs like oh little town of Bethlehem with this incredible first verse oh

little town of Bethlehem how still we see the lie above the deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light the hopes and fears of all the years are met in the tonight constantly advent will play on that interchange between darkness and light and this moment of this emergence of hopes and fears the hopes and fears of all the years are met in the baby in Bethlehem this is the moment that they’ve been waiting for but what hopes whose hopes are met because it’s not the people of Israel’s hopes it’s not David it’s not what they expected it’s not a king that will come and build the empire of Israel back up again it’s not someone who will come and overthrow the romans in the way that they expected it’s not the hopes and fears they expect to get met it’s not the expectation they have of what the world should look like it’s a different kind of reality it’s a different kind of emergence of light he will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the lord in the majesty of the name of the lord his god they will live securely these people of Israel pictured a military leader that would come and bring rule and yet what they got was far more like David as shepherd who would nurture and care for his people what they got was new light emerging something changing in the way that the world worked all of this story has been building and leading to this moment where god steps into his own story and that too leads on to this moment of easter this moment where we get to experience this death and then this resurrection this is a story that god has been preparing for years and light is

emerging out of darkness and yet a whole group of people missed it and why because the story didn’t look like the old story they couldn’t see a news story emerging they could only look for the old story in this moment in eastern easter in this moment in advent as we walk towards Christmas we get to acknowledge the darkness around us and in our own hearts also and yet we get to move towards Christmas believing that god has constantly and joyfully and repeatedly brought a light out of darkness and he does it over and over again in this season as you attempted to have pain maybe these two approaches maybe your personality and your temptation is I’m gonna put on the lights and I’m gonna put on the smile and I’m gonna pretend everything is fine I get to let you know you don’t have to do that that you need to have a space where you can say I am not okay it is not all right this year has brought trauma and her and pain and you need someone to be able to share that with but you also don’t need to descend into nobody comes nobody goes it’s awful because this god this god of the universe has specialized in turning up and bringing light from darkness in this season you can acknowledge the darkness in this world and your own heart also but believe that the new light emerges from that darkness going to invite Aaron and the team up on stage to lead us in worship and we’re going to move afterward to this lighting of our first candle it is the candle of hope my

hope is in this moment wherever you are in that journey whatever you see in the world around you whatever darkness you wrestle with that in this moment we would light that candle and it will kindle hope for you hope not in a return to an old story of a warrior king but hope in a shepherd king who came to rescue his people in whom you are included

Advent: Expectation vs. Reality (Part 1)2022-01-11T15:50:20-07:00
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