FILLING UP CHRISTMAS: The Pregnant Clock   Galatians 4:4-5 

If you’re anything like me, I get real excited about the Christmas season, I get excited about Advent, and we put a lot of energy into it and then we feel exhausted when it’s done.  Are you with me? December 25th hits and we’re like, I don’t want to see anybody, I don’t want to talk to anybody.  I know that Jesus has been born, but I’ve drunk so much eggnog and had so many parties and I’ve seen so many people, I just need a moment to myself.  Is anybody with me?  We get done with Christmas and we’re like, hey, we can only do this once a year, because it’s exhausting.  What if we could make a few minor changes in the way that we think, in the way that we act, in the way that we engage this season, rather than ending this season feeling like we’re running on empty?  What if?  Imagine in four weeks you felt like you had more energy, you felt like you had a bigger vision for what God was up to, you’re more excited for what was coming in the future than you are right now.  I think that’s what God wants to do in our lives as a community of faith over the next few weeks.  We’re starting a series this week that we’re calling “Filling Up Christmas.”  We all fill up Christmas, we just sometimes fill it up with the wrong things.  I want to point us back to the Scriptures, over the next few weeks.  I want to point us back to the way of Jesus, in hopes of really painting for us a different picture of what Christmas might look like.

Every year when I was growing up, I had elementary teachers that had us make a Christmas chain.  Each one of the links in this chain represent one day from now until Christmas Eve.  So there’s twenty-two links on here and each one represents one day.  As a kid, I remember making these in elementary school and thinking, “It’s coming! Christmas is on its way!”  Every time we tore off one of these links, the anticipation just started to build.  Oh man, it’s one day less before that present that I have been waiting for is at my door.  It was our way, as kids, of counting time.

I have some kids at my house this year and they’re counting time.  One of them is waiting for Santa to bring him a bike.  One of them is waiting for a joke book.  My eight-year-old wants to be the funniest eight-year-old girl you’ve ever met.  On her Christmas list she wrote “jook” book.  It’s awesome.  My five-year-old is hoping for a motorcycle.  Don’t tell him……it’s not going to happen!  And they are all banding together and praying that this year that we get another dog.  Unless Santa brings it, it’s not happening, people!

It’s a way to count time and it was a way to build hope and to build anticipation, but here’s what I found, as we grow into adulthood, very rarely are we handing a chain.  Very rarely are we told, “Here’s how long you’re going to have to wait.”  Here’s how long you’re going to have to wait until that new job comes through.  Just tear off one of these every single day and at the end of it, well, then….then….what’s been hoped for and dreamed about and prayed about will come.  At the end of the chain, well, then the relationship’s going to happen.  At the end of the chain, the restoration will take place.  Very rarely in adulthood are we told how long we’re going to have to wait, are we?  And waiting gets slippery.  Having hope and continuing to walk in hope is really, really difficult, isn’t it?  It’s the very reason the church calendar begins with Advent.  Did you know that this is our January as a church?  The church calendar begins at Advent.  It begins in darkness because we all wait in life.  It’s a universal condition.  Christmas is about joy.  Christmas is about celebration.  Christmas is about the birth of Jesus.  But Advent, that leads us up to Christmas, is dark.  Advent is about waiting.  Advent is about hoping.

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus.  It means arrival or coming.  It’s what Paul writes about to the church at Galatia, in Galatians 4:4-5.  He’s writing a letter to this early church….this church that’s been struggling, this church that has had a little bit of a difficult time grasping on to the unity of the gospel, that this really is all about Jesus and nothing more.  He comes to this point, four chapters into his letter, and listen to what he says:  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

When the fullness of time had come.  Which means that there was a lot of time that was un-full.  Right.  It means that every moment in time up until that birth of Jesus was lacking.  It wasn’t full.  From the very first promise of a Messiah, given in Genesis 3:15 — ….and you shall bruise his heel — it was the promise of the coming of God to wipe out darkness, wipe out evil, wipe out the enemy.  These early followers of Yahweh held onto this promise.  They were like, God’s going to do something!  God’s going to make a way.  You fast forward roughly fourteen generations and you get to David, who’s said to be the one whose kingdom would have no end, that one from David’s seed, one of David’s kids is going to reign on God’s throne.  They held onto this promise.  They didn’t know how long it was going to be, but God was moving them forward and He was pulling them along.  Then you have the Prophet Isaiah who makes this sort of enigmatic statement (Isaiah 7:14) — Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  They were like, wonderful, great, WHEN??  Can you imagine getting a chain that had 600 years worth of links on it?!?  Dragging that puppy!  The nation of Israel is going, “Alright, kids, we’re handing this one off to you.”  But they had this great hope — For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6-7)  Great!  When?  When?!

Have you ever felt like you’re just playing the waiting game?  Like the time wasn’t just quite full?  It’s interesting because my kids prepare for Christmas way different than Kelly and I do.  They prepare by making a chain and they’re just waiting.  They’re waiting for whatever is going to appear magically under that tree.  But Kelly and I are planning.  We’re preparing.  How are we going to afford all this?  How are we going to have five extra people living in our house for nine days during the Christmas season?  How are we going to organize all these different parties and get-togethers and eat all this food….    We’re making all the plans and they’re just sitting there like, let’s do this!  Right?

During that season of waiting that the nation of Israel waited, God was at work.  God was at work behind the scenes.  Sometimes in ways that people could see, and other times in ways that they had absolutely no clue.  While they were waiting, He was preparing.  So when the Apostle Paul writes about “the fullness of time,” God had prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah.  You had, for one of the first times in all of history, where the world was united under the Roman Empire.  You had Caesar Augustus who ruled above it all.  He was the son of Julius Caesar.  Julius Caesar was the first emperor to be deified, so Caesar Augustus was called the “son of god.”  People would greet each other, and they would exchange business in the market place, and underneath it all was this declaration “Caesar is lord.”  You had the Roman Empire expanding rapidly.  You had them building roads that made it possible to actually travel, which wasn’t possible before this time.  Roads that were so complex and so well built and well made that some of them still exist TODAY!  We’re lucky to get ten years out of ours here in Denver, right?  Redoing roads is a sport for us.  Not for them.  They did it once and they did it right!  You also had, going on at that same point in time, one central language that was beginning to pop up and was spoken all over the globe.  Not just by little tribes, but as a trade language everywhere.  It was the Greek language.  So you had a unified Empire.  You had a road system that allowed for travel.  You had a language that prepared the world to hear a message.

While we’re waiting, God’s preparing.  And he was preparing.  He prepared the world.  And he’s preparing you, too.  There was a promise that was made.  When the fullness of time came….  There was a promise that was made.  The promise was a process.  Have you noticed that’s often the way that God works?  That he could just give us the answer, but he walks us along.  God often seems like he’s sitting on his hands and taking his time.  Does it feel like this to anyone else except me?  He gives Abraham a promise and He gives it to him when he’s 75 years old, and He doesn’t fulfill the promise until he’s 100.  He didn’t give him any chain either.  He calls Moses to go to the pharaoh, but He only does it after 40 years of Moses sitting in the desert, shepherding sheep, waiting.  He anoints David as king, but David is on the run, living in caves, fleeing from Saul, for thirteen years before he actually takes the throne.  All of them living without a chain.  Like David’s not going, well, one more year.  Twelve more!  None of them.

I don’t know, if I had a question for God, one of them might be, “God, why do you make your promise in a way that causes us to embrace the process?”  Why not just make it when you’re ready to deliver?  Why not just tell us what you’re going to do and then do it?  Friends, this is what Advent is all about.  It’s about the process.  It’s about waiting.   {Look up at me for just a moment.}  God does some of his best work in your life while you’re waiting on Him, rather than when you’ve received what you’re waiting for.  He does some of his best conforming work in our hearts and lives while we wait.  But as Americans, we’re not great at waiting, are we?  We’re great at working.  We’re great at producing.  We’re great at doing.  But waiting?  No, no, no, no, no!  We do not like to wait, because we don’t like to waste.  We live in an Amazon Prime culture, don’t we?  There’s not a huge market, if we were to be like Abraham, for God to say, “I will deliver in 2043.”  Twenty-five years.  No one is signing up for that!  We usually want it and we want it quick, but God’s work is SLOW.  Let that sit on you for a moment.  Think about something that you’re waiting on.  Maybe you’re waiting on a doubt to be resolved.  Maybe you’re waiting on a healing to be given.  Maybe you’re waiting on a child to come around…or a son or daughter to come home.  A relationship to be restored.  Waiting’s hard work, isn’t it?  The process is difficult.

Listen to the way that Paul talks about God meeting us in the process.  He sort of outlines for us what it looks like for God to step in.  Here’s what he says:  But when the fullness of time had come, God…   It wasn’t that the world did such a great a job, the world made itself ready, and they were finally good enough, and they finally had their act together enough for Messiah to come.  No, no, no, no, no.  Christmas is God’s initiative.  It’s God coming for humanity.  It’s God on the move,  God on the prowl, God in the pursuit, and it’s God sending.   In the Greek, it’s this word exapostelló.  It means “to send out from.”  As painting the picture that God is on mission.  Christmas is about God accomplishing something.  It’s about God working and God moving.

Finally, he says:  …God sent forth his Son….  I think Advent is so important for us because we learn to wait, but we also learn the way that God often answers our waiting.  He typically doesn’t send an idea.  He often doesn’t send a messenger.  He usually gives us the thing that we want more than anything else, we just sometimes can’t put our finger on the fact that we want it.  He sends himself.  The promise is a process, and the provision is a person.  It’s personal in two ways.  One, it’s God giving himself personally.  This is different than any other religion, and any other system, and any other philosophy.  That God enters into the problem with his own flesh and blood, and resolves the issue of sin and darkness by taking it all on himself.  We call it “the incarnation.”  In carne….in flesh.  In meat.  Christmas isn’t just about a gift that’s been given, it’s about a life that’s been shared.  It’s about trinitarian life given to desperate humanity.  I love the way that Frederick Buechner put it:  “The incarnation is a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers….  Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.”

Friends, as we enter back into this story, into this waiting story, and looking back at God’s fulfillment to the nation of Israel waiting, we should go, God, this is crazy, this shocking, this is confusing.  That You would give yourself, not just a message, but You become the messenger.  Not that You’d solve the problem, but that you’d take the problem on your own shoulders.  God, this is personal.  Here’s what that means and would you lean in for just a moment?  I don’t know what type of waiting you bring in these doors; what types of hopes you have that you feel are real slippery and really loose and you’re not sure what to do with them today, will you just lean in for a moment, because the thing that Christmas declares to us, maybe above everything else, is that God cares, that God sees.  And He sees enough and He cares enough to say that you have—exactly as you are…broken and beautiful, in hope and in waiting, and in celebration, and in hills and valleys—infinite worth in the eyes of an Almighty Creator God.  The incarnation is ultimately about God’s redemption because of love.  That’s what He’s after.  That’s what we celebrate during the Christmas Advent season.   I love the way that Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it:  “He has become like a man, so that men should be like him.  And in the incarnation the whole human race recovers the dignity of the image of God.  Henceforth, any attack on the least of men is an attack on Christ, who took the form of man, and in his own person restored the image of God in all that bears a human form.”  Oh, come on, that’s good!  You’ve never seen somebody that Jesus didn’t come for.  That’s what Bonhoeffer’s saying.  This is a provision that doesn’t just solve the problem, it meets the person and invites us in to relationship with God.  Hear me this morning.  Lean in.  Christmas is about God on a rescue mission.  He’s redeeming those who were oppressed, pushed down.

But there’s an elephant in the room, isn’t there?  I mean, there was at least an elephant in my office while I wrote this.  What are we suppose to do?  If we were to read our Scriptures just with our eyes closed and our news apps off, we would expect God sent his son to redeem.  We would expect that the world would look a little bit differently than it does, would we not?  I mean, if God has come to redeem, was He successful? 1 John 3:8 said that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, to destroy the works of darkness, to destroy the works of the Enemy.  Did He accomplish what He set out to do?  Because our redeemed, beautiful world feels broken!  Doesn’t it?  What do we do with that?  Yeah, sure, the world was pregnant, the world was about to give birth, the world was prepared and ready when Jesus came….born in a manger.

Here’s my question:  Is our world pregnant again?  Is our world pregnant AGAIN?  Sometimes it feels like it, doesn’t it?  There are times when God seems silent, when God seems distant.  I’ve had three friends this week tell me, “I’m crying out to God and I don’t hear His voice.”  My prayers feel like they’re hitting the ceiling.  Is our world pregnant?  In the last eleven months, I’ve said goodbye to friends and family members, and my guess is you have too.  Is our world pregnant? In the country of Yemen, 1.8 million people are on the brink of starvation right now.  85,000 kids have already died of starvation this year.  Is our world pregnant?  Are we waiting?  Are we anticipating? I went to California a few weeks ago.  The day before I arrived, there was a mass shooting in a bar, and the day I got there that same little city caught on fire, massive fire.  Is our world pregnant? Last week, they released the new updated climate report.  However you want to look at that, here’s what we can surmise…..the trajectory isn’t good.  Is creation pregnant?  Is the earth pregnant?

The book of Romans would actually say…..YEAH!  Romans 8:19, 22 — For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  (v22) For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.   Wait just a second.  Maybe….maybe creation didn’t get the memo that Messiah has come.  Maybe Yemen didn’t get the memo that Jesus has been born.  Maybe we need to just go and tell them, “Jesus has been born.”  Maybe that will solve all of the problems.  Have you ever come here to celebrate Christmas, and you’ve come just wondering what do we do with the reality, that we believe wholeheartedly, that 2000 years ago, Jesus, Messiah, King of the universe, Lord of all creation was born in a manger in Bethlehem, and YET the world LONGS for its redemption?

So, what do we do?  Do we just make more Christmas cookies?  Sing a little bit louder?  Bury our heads in the sand and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas//Make the yuletide gay//From now on our troubles will be miles away….   Are troubles miles away?  So what do we do?  What do we do?  We’ve got to be able to look in the face in the very real, everyday atrocities and injustices in life.  We’ve got to look at the dashed dreams and the distant hopes, and we’ve got to be able to look at them, look them in the eye, with the declaration, “Jesus is Lord!”  Here’s the beautiful power of Advent.  Advent doesn’t erase the realities of life.  That’s not what Christmas is all about.  That’s not what Advent is all about.  It points us to a God who has made promises that transcend and go beyond what we can see right now!

If you go and read through the New Testament, you’re going to find that the author of the Scriptures spent some time pointing back to Jesus’s birth, but they spent a LOT of time pointing forward to His second coming!  A lot of time.  Ironically, Advent is a season about standing in this middle ground.

As a high school pastor, our church bought a school bus, so I needed to get my commercial driver’s license.  I went to this brave soul who was going to train me on how to drive a school bus.  He said, “Ryan, there’s a rhythm to this.  You’ve got to look forward and keep your eyes on the road.”  I’m like, I was expecting that, I’m driving a large vehicle.  He said, “You’ve got to keep your eyes on the road, but you can’t lose sight of what’s behind you.  You’ve got to look at the road ahead and you’ve got to constantly be sort of pointing your eyes up to your rearview mirror, and your sideview mirror, and your other sideview mirror, and your rearview mirror, and look forward and look back, and look forward and look back.”

And that’s what Advent is!  It’s a looking back—Christ has been born!  The Savior has come!  We live in this messy, middle, waiting ground where we look forward—Oh, He will come again and ONE day, He will wipe every tear from our eyes.  And ONE day, He will make all things new.  And ONE day, that trumpet will sound and He will come home and He will call your name!  I don’t know how many links are left in that chain, I just know that we’re playing the waiting game.  As we pray that His kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we enter into that redemptive story.  We play our part whether it’s in food or gifts or gospel….whatever it looks like, we play our part and we pray!

Christmas is not a time for trite, sentimental clichés.  It’s not.  It’s not a time for optimism, because optimism arises out of the denial of facts.  No, no, no, no, no.  Christmas is about hope.  Hope that persists in spite of the brokenness.  Hope that persists in spite of questions.  Hope that persists in spite of the doubt and in spite of the pain.  Waiting is a universal human condition.  We ALL wait.  The question isn’t whether or not we’re going to wait in life, the question is whether or not we’ll wait well.  Here’s the counterintuitive invitation of Advent….it’s back, it’s forward, it’s back, it’s forward.  We enter into the waiting that the Israelite nation longed for their Messiah in as we embrace our waiting.  Our waiting.

Flip over with me to 2 Peter.  Let me give you the framework — The early church is waiting for the promised second coming.  2 Peter 3:4.  Peter’s writing to a church in the midst of this waiting season, and he’s saying listen, there’s going to be people that come and teach, there’s going to be people that start to murmur….underneath their breath they’re going to say:  Where is the promise of his coming?  {Like, where is this Jesus you say is coming back?  Sure he was born in the manger, I guess we could find out some data on that, but it’s crazy that you think he’s coming again! Peter says there’s going to be people who wonder, you might even be one of those people.  They go, silliness, come on!  Let’s just have ourselves a merry little Christmas; wish our troubles away.  Here’s how Peter continues in verse 8.  How do we wait well?  How do we live on this Advent frontier?}  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  {Anyone want to say Amen? Yeah, that’s the deal.  God just doesn’t have the right clock!  That’s the problem.  If He had the right clock, maybe He’d do things in our time!  He’s just got a clock that’s a LOT slower than yours.}  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, {He’s talking about the Second Coming.  Looking back, looking forward.}  and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 

What’s Peter’s point?  I think what he’d say to us in this Advent season, 2018, where we remember the promise is often a process, that we’ve got to trust God’s timeline.  I want to clarify, because one of the things you might hear me saying in trusting God’s timeline is we’ve got to KNOW God’s timeline.  {Look up at me just a second.}  Trusting God’s timeline and knowing God’s timeline are not the same thing.  God’s timeline is often a lot slower than ours.  St. Augustine said it this way, “If you understand, it is not God you understand.”  That’s awesome!

In all honesty, you guys, there’ve been some seasons in my life where I’ve just struggled.  God, you just seem like you’re taking your sweet time.  Do you care about me?  Do you see me?  Do you hear my voice?  What in the world is going on?  If you’re in a waiting season this Advent, welcome to the portion of the church calendar that pats you on the back and says yeah, it’s a condition we all feel at some point.  Let’s. Wait. Well.

It’s one of those seasons, isn’t it, when we’re waiting on God to deliver on what we feel He’s promised, that it can get easy to say, I’m just going to check out.  I’m going to hit cruise control.  I can play this game with God….God, if you’re not going to come through for me than I’m not going to anything for you!  Anybody else go four-year-old on God sometimes?  I do!  So Peter wants to speak into that.  He sees that coming and he’s like, I see your four-year-old temper tantrum and I raise you (2 Peter 3:11)—Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be?  That’s a great question.  In the waiting.  In God’s “non-slowness,” what type of people should you be? He says live lives of holiness.  Different–the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  In godliness—shaped more and more into his image.  So in the Advent frontier where you’re waiting, we not only trust God’s timeline, but we try our best, but we focus on our formation.  We say, God, I’m not getting what I want here, but that’s not reason for me to check out, and that’s not reason for me to cash in my chips, and that’s not reason for me to give up on you, though maybe I’ve thought about it at some point.  It’s reason for me to look a little bit deeper, become a little bit more aware of some of the internal rhythms of my life and my soul and for us to do some business together, because God shines a light on some things in the waiting that we can’t see on the mountaintop.  I don’t think the waiting actually creates anything in us, it just reveals something about us and we see it!  Something that lies dormant when life is good, we can see in the waiting, and we have to take it to God and we have to figure out, God, what do you want to do with this?

Whenever we do the right thing in spite of the cost, we stand on the Advent frontier.  When the businessman refuses to say I’m going to be corrupt in order to get ahead, that’s an Advent decision.  The person who decides I’m not leaving the marriage, even though I have this dream I’ll be happier somewhere else.  I’m going to stick in covenant.  I’m going to continue to love and sacrifice even though…..   That’s an Advent decision.  Parents who continue to show love in the face of rejection, that’s an Advent decision.  I love the way Fleming Rutledge put it: “If you know that the reconciliation of all things is the grand design of the Creator of the universe, then your own individual and communal acts of faithfulness to one another become signs of the world to come.”  We hope and we wait, and while we wait, we don’t know how long, we live in a way that reflects the coming of THAT kingdom that we long for.  When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we live in the way of THAT kingdom that we so desperately long for.

So Peter has good news if you long for that kingdom.  Verse 12 — Waiting for and hastening {Waiting is patience and hastening is persistence.  Can you see that there’s a tension here?  We wait and we hasten.  We wait and we long for desperately.  We sort of sink anchor in the moment and live in the present and we look to the future and go, what God will do, He has not fully done yet.  We’ve seen glimpses of it, we’ve seen shadows of it, but new creation is on the horizon!}  the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.   Oh gosh!  Yeah!

Some people have taken this passage to mean: Followers of Jesus, it doesn’t matter what they do, what we do, what humanity does with the world, the earth.  Who cares about the climate report?  It’s gonna burn!  What do we do with that?  If you go back to verse 6, Peter said that this is sort of a corollary, what’s going on here.  What God will do at His return is similar to what He did when He wiped out the world with a flood and destroyed a world.  The world perished at the flood.  Which world is that that perished at the flood?  The one your house is built on!  That one.  He’s not talking about the world that will just be gone.  He’s talking about an earth that will be renewed.  It’s the same thing that happened at the flood.  This time in fire.  It’s a refining, it’s a renewal, it’s a redemption, it’s what we long for.  When every tear will be wiped away; when every sad will be reversed.  When death will have no more power, no more sting.  Where the enemy will fully be defeated and destroyed.  We anticipate the day Christ has come, Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again!  The great creed of the early church says, “he was born of the virgin Mary {Yeah, they’re looking back.  He was born in the manger, born of the virgin Mary.} AND he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  The first coming was a foretaste, the second coming will be the culmination of it all.   So….we wait.  We wait.  We look back in adoration and we look forward in anticipation.

One of the things our staff is doing—I want to invite you to do this with us—during this season of Advent is practicing something called “Fixed Hour Prayer.”  It’s a discipline the church (different sort of sects) has embraced numerous times throughout its history.  It’s simply setting an alarm a few different times during the day to remind you to pray.  I don’t know about you, but I set those alarms sometimes and go, oh yeah, God, I haven’t thought about you.  I haven’t invited you into this.  We’re going to set an alarm at 9 am, at noon, and at 3 pm, every day throughout this Advent season.  We’re going to use Fixed Hour Prayer as a way to push us back into this….God, we want to trust your timeline.  God, we want focus on our formation.  God, we want to look back in adoration and look forward in anticipation.  It’s really simple.  You can use these Advent devotionals for one of those and read that section.  You could use the Psalms at one of those as a way to engage God.  We just want our minds to be pulled back to Him, pushed back to Him this season.

At the fullness of time, God sent his son.  When the time is full again, He will come back.  It’s what the book of Hebrews promises us (9:28).  He will appear a second time, not to deal with sin—He’s already done that—but to save those, to heal those, to restore those who eagerly long for his waiting.  If you open your news app, if you have conversations with a friend and the world feels broken…..yes, welcome to Advent.  May we be people who wait and who hope well.

Every time we come to the communion table, we do that dance of looking forward, looking back, looking forward, looking back.  We look back and see that Jesus has come and has given his life, his death, burial, resurrection, and we look forward to the time when he will come again.  The table is open to all who are followers of Jesus.  We’re going to celebrate, this morning, as a chance to look back and look forward.  {Communion instructions given.}

Let’s pray.  Jesus, as we come to your table this morning, we come with adoration.  God, you’ve come.  We come with anticipation, the story isn’t over.  Yet there’s a huge anchor that holds us in the midst of life’s trials and storms, but we know that you’re not done working, that you’re not done moving.  Jesus, we come in adoration and we come in anticipation this morning.  Would you meet us in a unique way, as we celebrate your body given and your blood shed until you come again.  It’s in your name we pray.  Amen.